New BBS Researcher Focused on Aging Brain
May 9, 2011
How and why does the brain change as people age? Through her work in the Center for Vital Longevity, Dr. Cindy de Frias aims to explore the answers.
De Frias joined the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences last semester as an assistant professor. Her research examines individual differences in cognitive aging and the cognitive neuroscience of aging. De Frias has long been intrigued by the fact that although there is robust cognitive decline with normal aging, many older adults are able to perform some complex cognitive tasks effectively.
She plans to implement a randomized controlled trial of executive-function training and the use of compensatory strategies in older adults. Identifying ways of enhancing cognitive competence in everyday life is an important focus for aging research. She also plans to continue examining the genetic influences on individual differences in cognitive functioning and emotion regulation in older adults. New research studies in these areas will be conducted in her laboratory.
Since her arrival at UT Dallas, de Frias has been impressed by the quality of the faculty, as well as the level and range of research under way. “I am enthusiastic about the opportunities at UT Dallas,” she said.
Her primary areas of research include:
- The investigation of genetic vulnerabilities to cognitive functioning and emotion regulation across the adult lifespan.
- Individual differences, predictors and changes in the use of memory compensatory strategies, and developing novel cognitive techniques to promote adaptive behaviors.
- Executive-function differentiation across the adult lifespan.
- Variability as a predictor of disease severity and cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease (with and without dementia) as compared to healthy aging.
- Combining genetic and neuroimaging correlates with the investigation of executive functioning in older adults.
Dr. Denise Park, director of the Center for Vital Longevity, will collaborate with de Frias on some research projects.
"Dr. de Frias brings a broad perspective on understanding the process of aging and greatly enhances the reach of the Center for Vital Longevity,” she said. “Her work on changes that occur in cognition with age is widely recognized. She is a great asset to UT Dallas and the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.”
De Frias earned her master’s degree in human development and family studies from Pennsylvania State University, and her doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Victoria in Canada. She was selected for a postdoctoral fellowship award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Aging, which she held at Stockholm University/Karolinska Institute and at the University of Alberta.