Denise Head

Denise Head

Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences​
Associate Chair of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Associate Professor in Radiology
PHD, University of Memphis
MS, University of Memphis
BS, University of New Orleans
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    • Washington University
      CB 1125
      One Brookings Drive
      St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    The broad focus of Denise Head’s research program is the exploration of the constellation of age-related cognitive changes and their relations with brain structure. 


    There are three primary threads within this overarching theme. For one line of research, the focus is on characterizing the nature of aging effects on cognitive functioning with consideration of the accompanying brain changes, with both normal and pathological aging (i.e., Alzheimer disease) examined. My lab has been specifically examining effects on spatial navigation, using both virtual-reality and real-world experimentation as well as mobile eye-tracking and experience sampling. The second major concentration involves examination of moderators and mediators of cognitive and brain aging, including factors such as exercise, cardiovascular health, sleep characteristics, stress and personality. The third component of my research program entails consideration of methods to support effective spatial navigation in older adults. The underlying object of all of these research lines is to gain a greater understanding of cognitive aging, the contributing factors and effective intervention.  

    Selected Publications

    Head, D., Buckner, R. L., Shimony, J. S., Girton, L. E., Akbudak, E., Conturo, T. E., McAvoy, M., Morris, J. C., & Snyder, A. Z. (2004). Differential vulnerability of anterior white matter in nondemented aging with minimal acceleration in dementia of the Alzheimer type: Evidence from diffusion tensor imaging. Cerebral Cortex, 14, 410-423.

    Head, D., Snyder, A. Z., Girton, L. E., Morris, J. C., & Buckner, R. L. (2005). Frontal-hippocampal double dissociation between normal aging and Alzheimer's disease. Cerebral Cortex, 15, 732-739.

    Head, D., Rodrigue, K., Kennedy, K., & Raz, N. (2008). Neuroanatomical and cognitive mediators of age-related differences in episodic memory. Neuropsychologia. 22, 491-507.

    Fagan, A. M., Head, D., Shah, A. R., Marcus, D., Mintun, M., Morris, J. C., & Holtzman, D. M. (2009). Decreased CSF Ab42 correlates with brain atrophy in cognitively normal individuals but not in dementia of the Alzheimer type. Annals of Neurology, 65, 176-183.

    Head, D., Rodrigue, K., Kennedy, K., & Raz, N. (2009). Age differences in perseveration: cognitive and neuroanatomical mediators of performance on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. Neuropsychologia, 47, 1200-1203.

    Storandt, M., Mintun, M., Head, D., & Morris, J. C. (2009). Longitudinal cognitive performance in nondemented people with [11C]PIB imaging. Archives of Neurology, 66, 1476-1481.

    Hinrichs, A. L., Mintun, M., Head, D., Fagan, A. M., Holtzman, D. M., Morris, J. C., & Goate, A. M. (2010). Cortical binding of Pittsburgh compound B: an endophenotype for genetic studies of Alzheimer's disease. Biological Psychiatry, 67, 581-583.

    Head, D., & Isom, M. (2010). Age effects on wayfinding and route-following skills. Behavioural Brain Research, 209, 49-588.

    Bugg, J. M., & Head, D. (in press). Exercise moderates age-related atrophy of the medial temporal lobe. Neurobiology of Aging.

    Jackson, J. D., Balota, D. A., & Head, D.  (in press). Personality effects on regional brain structure in aging. Neurobiology of Aging.