Senior citizens invited to participate in study of cognitive functioning by Fairfield University professor of psychology


Exercise your brain and earn a little cash! Linda A. Henkel, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Fairfield University, is looking for people aged 65 and older to participate in the Fairfield University Cognitive Aging Project. The project is a study of the changes in cognition and thought across the lifespan, including attention, memory, and decision-making.

Participants in the study are asked to answer questions that examine how they make decisions about things that they see and things that they imagine, how they choose between different options, and how they remember their recent experiences and childhood experiences. Seniors who participate in the study are paid $10 per hour. The studies are usually one time, for one hour.

"The broad goal is to get a better understanding of which aspects of cognitive function change as a person gets older, and which do not," said Dr. Henkel, a Newtown resident who received an Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) of more than $129,000 last year from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging to study cognitive function in older adults as compared with younger adults. Results from the first two studies have shed light on some important differences in memory and attention processes in young and older adults. Findings have been reported at the Cognitive Aging Conference in Atlanta and at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. All participants receive a newsletter highlighting the major findings.

The various cognitive tasks are conducted individually by Dr. Henkel and her researching team at Fairfield University's Department of Psychology.

All information obtained from the participants is kept confidential, said Dr. Henkel, who assigns a number to participants' data and uses the information based on their numbers (not their names). Participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from the school.

"Dr. Henkel's research is valuable on so many different levels," John F. McCarthy, Ph.D., chair of the psychology department. "The work that she is doing will contribute to psychology's knowledge about the functioning of an aging group which is becoming increasingly large in our society. Her work also provides enormous opportunities for our psychology students to not only learn about research but also to be involved in a very personal one-on-one relationship with individuals who can enhance their views of the world. Research such as this brings a lot to the University and to the community at large."

For more information about the project, contact Dr. Linda Henkel at (203) 254-4000, ext. 3387 or lhenkel@mail.fairfield.edu.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on June 10, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 301