Park Lab Participant Appreciation Event Draws Crowd to CVL

The Park Aging Mind Lab held a special appreciation event for all of their community-based research participants on August 6, attracting scores of past and present volunteers in CVL studies. Attendees were served brunch and heard results from the very studies in which they participated, such as the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study (DLBS) and the Synapse Project.

Center co-director Dr. Denise Park gave a special welcome to the group.

“We thank each of you for contributing your time so generously to science, and by doing so, helping us arrive at new insights into how healthy minds and brain work and change as we age. Without you, our research would not be possible,” she said.

DLBS is a large-scale research project looking into neural and cognitive aging across the entire adult lifespan from age 20 to 90. This study involves a search for a “neural signature” that is characteristic of healthy cognition, and also is searching for the neural footprint in middle age that predicts cognitive health or frailty in old age.

Attendees learned about new Park Lab-based research as well, specifically Dr. Kristen Kennedy’s work on imaging and the thinning of certain areas of the brain as it ages. Dr. Kennedy was followed by Dr. Gerard Bischof, who earned his doctorate over the summer. Dr. Bischof gave attendees a glimpse of his academic journey and a path that started in Germany and eventually led him to the Center, where his work focuses on amyloid deposition.

Two postdoctoral students also gave presentations on findings related to the aging brain and specific interventions, such as iPad use, that, in the novice, may help strengthen cognition, similar to what researchers found in the quilting and digital photography arms of the other hallmark Park Lab study, the Synapse Project.

Among the guests and attendees were husband and wife Nathan and Dorothy Ivey.

The couple, who have been part of CVL studies for the last four years, attribute part of their cognitive vitality to participating in CVL research.

“To me, the work of the Center is terribly important,” Nathan said. “We’ve been delighted to participate – one thing is clear, though – my wife’s memory is better,” he smiled.

Dorothy, a retired high school teacher, mostly history and English, is an active Scrabble player with her husband. She also uses an iPad daily, she says. They have three advanced degrees among them. Both also credit their education and intellectual curiosity with helping to retain their cognitive vitality.

Finally, in new work being explored by CVL research scientist Zhuang Song, himself new to the Center as of this year, participants also learned about a just-launched sleep study that is looking into the effects of sleep patterns on neural and cognitive processes.

Participant James Frame spoke after the event about friends he knows, who are actively pursuing strategies and lifestyles that keep them mentally agile. His recommendation to them is to participate in CVL studies because of his own experience.

“Personally I have been keenly aware of the great research here, and I am glad to be a part of it,” he said. “I plan to be active for at least 22 more years, and will hopefully benefit from this research. I learned a lot, and felt honored to have been invited. Particularly helpful was the information that our brains rejuvenate by learning new things.”