Social Modifiers of Stress Regulation and Healthy Aging

Dates: 6/1/2017 - 5/31/2019


Principal Investigator: Kathi Heffner, PhD

The purpose of this award is to lay the foundation for an initiative we identify as HARP: The Healthy Aging Research Program. A central hypothesis guiding HARP is that healthy aging is dependent upon older adults’ capacity to adapt to environmental stressors. Our models thus far have emphasized the interplay among cognitive, emotion, and physiological regulation in predicting adaptive capacity. With this award, we expand our models to include social mechanisms that are likely integral to adaptive capacity. We aim to determine the potential promise of two approaches to targeting these mechanisms in ways that lead, ultimately, to improvement in social connectedness in older adults: Aim 1 is to examine the role of neuroplasticity-based, computerized cognitive training in improving older adults’ adaptation to social stress via changes in neural efficiency (Program Project 1); Aim 2 is to determine the promise of an innovative, affective computing system for promoting social communication skills, and the potential role of cognitive capacity in intervention outcomes (Program Project 2).