The challenges of dissociating the cognitive effects of depression from those of aging have limited the translation of cognitive neuroscience to patient-oriented research in geriatric depression. This has created a critical need for behavioral paradigms that can quantify how key features of cognitive performance interact with depression and age, and for experimental studies that can identify their neural and clinical correlates. This K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Career Development Award will allow the candidate to become a leader in research that integrates cognitive neuroscience with clinical research on the nature and outcomes of cognitive dysfunction in depression. The career development plan builds upon the candidate's background as a clinical neuropsychologist and will enable him to design and execute cognitive neuroscience research that is clinically informed, as well as clinical research that is based on sound neuroscience. The training plan includes academic study of the theories and methodologies of cognitive neuroscience, in conjunction with intensive hands-on experience developing cognitive tasks and collecting and processing functional neuroimaging data. The candidate's training will allow him complete the aims of the proposed research study, which are to: 1) examine the effects of depression on the efficiency of attentional control in young and old adults during visual search, 2) examine the mediating effects of anhedonia on the efficiency of attentional control in depression, and 3) examine influences of age, anhedonia, and depression on the neural mechanisms of attentional control using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Future study proposals will extend these findings by integrating assessments of specific symptom profiles and clinical outcomes in depression with experimental analysis of their cognitive and neural correlates. The candidate's program of research has the potential to identify clinical phenotypes of depression that are associated with cognitive deficits across the adult lifespan, and to provide preliminary validation of visual search as a clinical measure of attention in depression. Both of these outcomes are important to translating cognitive neuroscience tasks to patient-oriented research in treatment discovery and development.
The relevance of this project to public health is that differentiating the cognitive deficits of depression and anhedonia from those of aging has the potential to advance understanding of the pathophysiology of depression. This advancement will improve clinical diagnosis, and ultimately contribute to more efficacious approaches to prevent, manage, and cure depression.
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