Director of Research, Center for Vital Longevity;
Distinguished University Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences;
UT Regents' Research Scholar
PhD, State University of New York at Albany
Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging
Denise Park received her PhD from the State University of New York at Albany in 1977. She is Director of Research for the Center of Vital Longevity, Distinguished University Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Regents' Research Scholar at UT Dallas. Her primary research focus is on (a) understanding the neural mechanisms that account for age-related cognitive decline, and (b) determining how enriching and cognitive demanding experiences can facilitate cognitive health, thus delaying brain aging and the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Park has also pioneered research in cultural neuroscience, focusing on understanding how cultural experiences sculpt neural function and behavior in both old and young adults.
Dr. Park's work is guided by the "Scaffolding Theory of Aging and Cognition" (Park & Reuter-Lorenz, 2009), an integrative theory of cognitive aging that suggests that the brain sustains a series of neural insults with increasing age. These insults include brain shrinkage, deposition of amyloid plaques on the brain, and the development of white matter hyperintensities - all of which degrade connectivity and efficiency of the aging brain. Despite this deterioration, a relatively high level of cognition is maintained due to enhanced neural activity (measured with functional MRI) that compensates for decline.
McDonough, I.M., Haber, S., Bischof, G.N., Park, D.C. (2015) The Synapse project: Engagement in mentally challenging activities enhances neural efficiency. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience. [Epub ahead of print] DOI: 10.3233/RNN-150533.
Kobayashi, L.C., Smith, S.G., O’Conor, R., Curtis, L.M., Park, D.C., von Wagner, C., Deary, I.J., Wolf, M.S. (2015). The role of cognitive function cognitive function in the relationship between age and health literacy: a cross-sectional analysis of older adults in Chicago, USA. BMJ. 5(4): e007222. PMCID: PMC4410118.
Rieck, J.R., Rodrigue, K.M., Kennedy, K.M., Devous, M.D. Sr., and Park, D.C. (2015). The effect of beta-amyloid on face processing in young and old adults: A multivariate analysis of the BOLD signal. Human Brain Mapping. 36(7):2514-26. PMCID: PMC4617762.