Our Current and Recent Work
“OLD and BOLD”: Brain Health and Physical Activity
The goal of our study is to gain knowledge that will help make recommendations for physical activity for adults to support their brain and cognitive health. Precisely, we will study how physical activity relates to physical fitness, brain health, and cognitive aging. We are now recruiting adults who are 60 or older and are in good general health, have no neurological or mental disease, or heart disease.
FAST: Fit and Active Seniors – Lifestyle Intervention Study
This randomized clinical trial includes >240 participants of age 60–80, randomized into four intervention groups (Walking, Walking+Nutrition, Dance, and Active Control). MRI, cognitive, fitness, and physical activity data were collected pre- and post-intervention at the University of Illinois (PI Arthur F. Kramer, Eddie McAuley; NCT01472744 at www.nia.nig.gov). We are currently exploring the cross-sectional relationships between neuronal markers of brain health, fitness, and cognitive performance, as well as evaluating the effects of interventions on brain health, with the focus on white matter and structure-function interactions.
Nutrition and Aging Brain
The FAST trial collected nutritional diaries from selected participants. Dr. Burzynska is collaborating with Dr. Krystle Zuniga, Texas State University, on investigating the relationships between diet and brain health.
MODERN: Brain Structure and Function in Professional Dancers
Although dancing has been associated with lowered risk of dementia and higher motor and cognitive functioning in older adults (Granacher et al., 2012; Kattenstroth et al., 2010, 2011), little is known about the effects that intensive dancing exerts on brain structure and function (Haenggi et al., 2009). In this study, we evaluate the neural correlates of cognitive and motor benefits of professional dance training. We recruited professional dancers from the Department of Dance (UIUC) and compared their brains to age- and education-matched controls with no dancing experience. We collected MRI (structural, task functional and resting state, DTI, elastography), neuropsychological, balance, and video game data. The results of this study will help us make predictions on how dance interventions may enhance brain integrity in advanced age and lay a foundation for future study designs and analyses aiming to promote successful aging.
NEW! Work, Retirement, and Brain Aging
There is evidence that remaining employed after 65 is related with better cognitive outcomes (Smart, Gow, & Deary, 2014). The underlying neural mechanisms, however, are very poorly understood. In this project we aim to better understand the impact of occupational history and retirement on age-related brain changes and cognitive decline.