Associate Professor Susanne Jaeggi has received the prestigious "K02 Independent Scientist Award" from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging (NIH/NIA). The purpose of the K02 is to foster the development of outstanding scientists and enable them to expand their potential to make significant contributions to their field of research.
Project Aim and Summary
The vast majority of our nation’s aging population will experience some decline in cognitive function with age. Therefore, the development of effective interventions to mitigate age-related cognitive decline is of critical importance in that those interventions might not only impact older adults’ cognitive and daily life functioning, but ultimately, contribute to their health, well-being and quality of life. There is accumulating evidence that cognitive interventions targeting working memory are beneficial in that they show generalizing effects that go beyond what has been specifically trained, i.e. transfer effects, resulting in potential implications for public health, especially in an older adult population. Despite the promising results, more research is needed to make cognitive interventions more effective and more robust, and to uncover their underlying mechanisms.
For over a decade, Dr. Jaeggi has devoted her research efforts to the investigation of working memory and related functions, as well as individual differences and age-related cognitive change. She is considered as a leader in the field of cognitive training, and her current projects are funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA; 1R01AG049006-01A1), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; 1R01MH111742-01), the National Science Foundation (NSF; 1561404), and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES; R324A150023). They all have the common goal to contribute to a better understanding of the underlying behavioral and neural mechanisms of learning and transfer, to increase cognitive interventions’ efficacy, and to uncover mediators and moderators of training-related change by focusing on diverse populations across the lifespan, ranging from older adults to children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Her research program has translational impact given its interdisciplinary approach involving Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, Gerontology, and Education.
Dr. Jaeggi’s work conducted under the K02 addresses two goals. The first goal is pragmatic, with a focus on how to make cognitive training interventions more effective by focusing on the implementation of motivational features and the interventions’ optimal scheduling (i.e., spacing of training sessions). Her team will also investigate the potential additive effects of WM interventions that are combined with other approaches, such as self-efficacy interventions or neuromodulary techniques (i.e. transcranial direct current stimulation), investigate longitudinal effects of training, and explore whether any improvements extend to measures of everyday functioning. Second, this project addresses the most important question of any intervention research by investigating the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying improvement using structural and functional neuroimaging. Furthermore, the project will shed light on individual differences as moderating factors for training and transfer success. Given the sparse availability of effective cognitive interventions, the project will have important implications in that it will shed more light on the mechanisms of cognitive plasticity in old age, and serve as groundwork for future national and international collaborative projects and large-scale randomized clinical trials investigating the efficacy of targeted interventions in populations that are at risk for dementia.
The University of California, Irvine (UCI) provides an ideal high-quality research environment to support Dr. Jaeggi’s work and career aspirations, for example through the multiple centers involving faculty from various schools and departments that are dedicated to the investigation of memory, aging, and cognitive development (e.g. the UCI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (UCI ADRC), the UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND), or the UCI Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (UCI CNLM)), providing extensive opportunities for intellectual discourse. Furthermore, Dr. Jaeggi has long-standing national and international collaborators (e.g. at the University of Michigan, the University of Queensland, Australia, or the Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland), and for the duration of the K02 award, Dr. Jaeggi plans extended visits at those labs in order to further advance her career development, enhancing the potential to make significant contributions to the field of cognitive training, aging, and brain plasticity.