Kristy Nielson, Ph.D.
(414) 288-1796

More information

Dr. Nielson enjoys volleyball, softball, music, cooking, cards, books, cats and dogs, world travel, hiking, fine wines, single-malt whiskeys, Milwaukee Bungalows and all things "Arts & Crafts."


Ph.D., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1992
Post-doctoral Fellow, Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, University of California, Irvine, 1993-1996

Director, Foley Center for Aging and Development and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, 1998 - present.

Teaching Interests

Dr. Nielson's teaching interests include experimental psychology and research design; cognition; brain and behavior; adult development and aging; psychopharmacology; and neuropsychology and neurological disease.

Research Interests

Dr. Nielson's research interests include cognition, psychobiology and neuropsychology, specifically related to memory, attention, aging, dementia, and functional MRI. She principally studies how memories are enhanced or impaired, how aging affects memory, the prediction of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease using fMRI and risk factors, and methods to enhance memory and performance across the lifespan in environments such as classrooms and at work.

Other Professional Activities

Selected Publications

Smith, J.C., Nielson, K.A., Antuono, P., Lyons, J.-A., Hanson, R.T., Butts, A.M., Hantke, N.C., and Verber, M.D. (2013). Semantic memory fMRI and cognitive functioning after exercise intervention in Mild Cognitive Impairment. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 37, 197-215.

Seidenberg, M., Guidotti-Breting, L., Novitsky, J., Woodard, J.L., Nielson, K.A., Smith, J.C., Lancaster, M., Matthews, M., Hantke, N., Butts, A., & Rao, S.M. (2013). Recognition of famous names predicts episodic memory decline in cognitively intact elders. Neuropsychology, 27(3), 333-342.

Smith, J.C., Nielson, K.A., Woodard, J.L., Seidenberg, M., & Rao, S.M. Physical activity and brain function in older adults at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (2013). Brain Sciences 3, 54-83; doi:10.3390/brainsci3010054.

Hantke, N., Nielson, K.A., Woodard, J.L., Guidotti-Breting, L.M., Butts, A.M., Seidenberg, M., Smith, J.C., Durgerian, S., Lancaster, M.A., Sugarman, M.A., Matthews, M., and Rao, S.M. (2012). Comparison of semantic and episodic memory BOLD fMRI activation in predicting cognitive decline in older adults. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 19, 11-21. DOI:; PMID: 23199565.

Nielson, K.A. & Arentsen, T.J. (2012). Memory modulation in the classroom: selective enhancement of college examination performance by arousal induced after lecture. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 98(1), 12-16.

Woodard, J.L., Sugarman, M., Nielson, K.A., Seidenberg, M., Durgerian, S., Smith, J.C., Butts, A., Hantke, N.C., Lancaster, M., Matthews, M., and Rao, S.M. (2012). Lifestyle and genetic contributions to cognitive decline and hippocampal integrity in healthy aging. Current Alzheimer Research, 9(4), 436-446.

Sugarman, M.A., Woodard, J.L., Nielson, K.A., Seidenberg, M., Smith, J.C., Durgerian, S., & Rao, S.M. (2012). Functional magnetic resonance imaging of semantic memory as a presymptomatic biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease risk. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease, 1822(3), 442-456; available online 10/3/2011, doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2011.09.016.

Smith, J.C., Nielson, K.A., Woodard, J.L., Seidenberg, M., Durgerian, S., Antuono, P., Butts, A., Hantke, N.C., Lancaster, M.A., & Rao, S.M. (2011). Physical activity and semantic memory activation in Mild Cognitive Impairment. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 193, 60-62.

Arentsen, T.J., Bock, B., and Nielson, K.A. (2011). Individual differences associated with the repeated endorsement of post-event misinformation. In Bertrand, L.M. & Nielson, R.A. (Eds.)  Psychology of Individual Differences, New York: Nova Science Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-61209-926-2 (March, 2011).

Smith, J.C., Nielson, K.A., Butts, A., Hantke, N., Woodard, J.L., Seidenberg, M., Durgerian, S., Rao, S.M. (2011). Interactive effects of physical activity and APOE-ε4 on BOLD semantic memory activation in healthy elders. NeuroImage, 54, 635-644. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.07.070.

Meltzer, M.A. & Nielson, K.A. (2010). Memory for emotionally provocative words in alexithymia. Consciousness and Cognition 19, 1062-1068 doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.05.008.

English, S. & Nielson, K. A. (2010). Reduction of the misinformation effect by arousal induced after learning. Cognition, 117, 237-242. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2010.08.014.

Woodard, J.L., Seidenberg, M., Nielson, K.A., Antuono, P., Durgerian, S., Zhang, Q., & Rao, S.M. (2010).  Prediction of 18-month cognitive decline in healthy older adults using functional MRI. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 21(3), 871-885, DOI 10.3233/JAD2010091693.

Nielson, K. A., Seidenberg, M., Woodard, J.L., Durgerian, S., Zhang, Q., Gross, W., Gander, A., Guidotti, L., & Rao, S.M.  (2010).  Common neural systems associated with the recognition of famous faces and names: an event-related functional-MRI study. Brain and Cognition, 72, 491-498. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2010.01.006, PMID: 20167415.

Nielson, K.A. & Meltzer, M. A. (2009). Modulation of long-term memory by arousal in alexithymia: the role of interpretation. Consciousness and Cognition, 18, 786-793. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2009.06.001

Seidenberg, M., Guidotti, L., Nielson, K.A., Woodard, J.L., Durgerian, S., Antuono, P., Zhang, Q., & Rao, S.M. (2009). Semantic memory activation in individuals at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology, 73, 612-620. This Week in Neurology feature, 8/25/09. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181b389ad

Woodard, J.L., Seidenberg, M., Nielson, K.A., Antuono, P., Guidotti. L., Durgerian, S., Zhang, Q., Lancaster, M., Hantke, N., Butts, A., & Rao, S.M. (2009). Semantic memory activation in amnestic mild cognitive impairment. Brain 132 (8), 2068-2078. doi:10.1093/brain/awp157

Nielson, K.A. & Lorber, W. (2009). Memory modulation by arousal after learning is influenced by arousal predisposition and emotion regulation but not by stimulus valence or arousal. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 92, 70-79. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2009.03.002

Wright, S.L., Langenecker, S.A., Deldin, P.J., Rapport, L.J., Nielson, K. A., Kade, A.A., Own, L.S., Akil, H., Young, E.A., Zubieta, J.K. (2009). Gender-specific disruptions in emotion processing in younger adults with depression. Depression and Anxiety, 26(2), 182-189. doi:10.1002/da.20502

Seidenberg, M., Guidotti, L., Nielson, K.A., Woodard, J.L., Durgerian, S., Zhang, Q., Gander, A., Franczak, M., Antuono, P., & Rao, S.M. (2009). Semantic knowledge for famous names in Mild Cognitive Impairment. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Association, 15, 9-18. doi: 10.1017/S1355617708090103; PMCID: PMC2774216

Langenecker, S.A., Zubieta, J.K., Young, E.A., Akil, H., & Nielson, K.A. (2007). A task to manipulate attentional load, set-shifting, and inhibitory control: Convergent validity and test-retest reliability of the Parametric Go/No-go test. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 29(8), 842-853. doi:10.1080/13803390601147611

Langenecker, S.A., Caveney, A., Giordani, B., Young, E.A., Nielson, K.A., Rapport, L., Bieliauskas, L., Mordhorst, M., Marcus, S., Yodkovik, N., Kerber, K., Berent, S., Zubieta, J. K. (2007). The sensitivity and psychometric properties of a brief computer-based cognitive screening battery in a depression clinic. Psychiatry Research, 152, 143-154. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2006.03.019

Nielson, K.A., and Powless, M. (2007). Positive and negative sources of emotional arousal enhance long-term word-list retention when induced as long as thirty minutes after learning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 88, 40-47. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2007.03.005

Woodard, J.L., Seidenberg, M., Nielson, K.A., Miller, S.K., Franczak, M., Antuono, P., Douville, K.L., & Rao, S.M. (2007). Temporally graded activation of neocortical regions in response to memories of different ages. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19(7), 1-12. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2007.19.7.1113; PMCID: PMC2078236

Langenecker, S.A., Briceno, E.M., Hamid, N.M., & Nielson, K.A. (2007). An evaluation of distinct volumetric and functional MRI contributions toward understanding age and task performance: a study in the basal ganglia. Brain Research, 1158, 58-68. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.11.068; PMCID: PMC2078239

Nielson, K.A., Douville, K.L., Seidenberg, M., Woodard, J.L., Miller, S.K., Antuono, P., Franczak, M., & Rao, S.M. (2006). Age-related functional recruitment during the recognition of famous names: an event-related fMRI study. Neurobiology of Aging, 27, 1494-1504. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2005.08.022; PMCID: PMC2078241

Nielson, K.A., & Bryant, T. (2005). The effects of non-contingent extrinsic and intrinsic rewards on memory consolidation. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 84, 42-48. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2005.03.004

Nielson, K.A., Yee, D., & Erickson, K.I. (2005). Memory enhancement by a semantically unrelated emotional arousal source induced after learning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 84, 49-56. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2005.04.001

Douville, K., Woodard, J L., Seidenberg, M., Miller, S., Leveroni, C.L., Nielson, K.A., Franczak, M., Antuono, P., & Rao, S.M. (2005). Medial temporal lobe activity for recognition of recent and remote famous names: an event-related fMRI study. Neuropsychologia, 43, 693-703. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2004.09.005

Nielson, K.A., Langenecker, S.A., Ross, T.J., Garavan, H., Rao, S.M., & Stein, E.A. (2004). Comparability of functional MRI response in young and old during inhibition. Neuroreport: For Rapid Communication of Neuroscience Research, 15(1), 129-133. doi:10.1097/01.wnr.0000093293.85057.d6; PMCID: PMC2078238

Langenecker, S.A., Nielson, K.A., & Rao, S.M. (2004). fMRI of healthy older adults during Stroop interference. Neuroimage, 21(1),192-200. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.08.027; PMCID: PMC2078238

Langenecker, S.A., & Nielson, K.A. (2003). Frontal recruitment during response inhibition in older adults replicated with fMRI. Neuroimage, 20, 1384-1392. doi:10.1016/S1053-8119(03)00372-0

Nielson, K.A., Langenecker, S.A., and Garavan, H. (2002) Differences in the functional neuroanatomy of inhibitory control across the adult life span. Psychology and Aging, 17(1), 56-71. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.17.1.56

Stone, L.A. & Nielson, K.A. (2001). Physiological response to arousal and impaired emotional expression in alexithymia. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 70, 92-102. doi:10.1159/000056232

Czech, D.A., Nielson, K.A., & Laubmeier, K.K. (2000). Chronic administration of propranolol impairs Morris water maze retention in the mouse. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 74, 17-26. doi:10.1006/nlme.1999.3944

Nielson, K.A., Czech, D.A, & Laubmeier, K.K. (1999). Chronic administration of propranolol impairs inhibitory avoidance retention in the mouse. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 71, 248-257. doi:10.1006/nlme.1998.3873

Victoroff, J.I., Mack, W.J., & Nielson, K.A. (1998). Psychiatric complications of dementia: Impact on caregivers? Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 9, 50-55. DOI: 10.1159/000017022

Victoroff, J.I., Nielson, K.A., & Mungas, D. (1997). Caregiver and clinician assessment of behavior disorders: The California Dementia Behavior Questionnaire. International Psychogeriatrics, 9(2), 155-174. doi:10.1017/S1041610297004316

Satou, T., Cummings, B J., Head, E., Nielson, K.A., Hahn, F.F., Milgram, N.W., Velazquez, P., Cribbs, D., Tenner, A., & Cotman, C.W. (1997). The progression of ß-amyloid deposition in the frontal cortex of the aged canine. Brain Research, 774, 35-43. doi:10.1016/S0006-8993(97)81684-8

Nielson, K.A., Radtke, R.C., & Jensen, R.A. (1996). Arousal-induced modulation of memory storage processes in humans. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 66, 133-142. doi:10.1006/nlme.1996.0054

Nielson, K.A., Nolan, J., Berchtold, N., Sandman, C., Mulnard, R. & Cotman, C. (1996). Apolipoprotein-E genotyping of diabetic dementia patients: Is diabetes rare in Alzheimer disease? Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 44 (8), 897-904.

Nielson, K.A., Cummings, B.J., & Cotman, CW. (1996). Constructional apraxia in Alzheimer’s disease correlates with neuritic neuropathology in occipital cortex. Brain Research, 741(1-2), 284-293. doi:10.1016/S0006-8993(96)00983-3

Shankle, W.R., Nielson, K.A., & Cotman, C.W. (1995). Low-dose propranolol reduces aggression and agitation resembling that associated with orbitofrontal dysfunction in elderly demented patients. Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, 9(4), 233-237.

Dick, M.B., Nielson, K.A., Beth, R.E., Shankle, W.R., & Cotman, C.W. (1995). Acquisition and long-term retention of a fine motor skill in Alzheimer's disease. Brain and Cognition, 29(3), 294-306. doi:10.1006/brcg.1995.1283

Nielson, K.A., & Jensen, R.A. (1994). Beta-adrenergic receptor antagonist antihypertensive medications impair arousal-induced modulation of working memory in elderly humans. Behavioral and Neural Biology, 62, 190-200.

Forthcoming Papers

E-mail For More Information

Keller-Ross, M.L., Pereira, H.M., Pruse, J., Yoon, T., Schlinder-DeLap, B., Nielson, K.A., & Hunter, S.K. Stress-induced increase in muscle fatigability of young men and women is predicted by strength but not voluntary activation. Under Review.

Sugarman, M.A., Woodard, J.L., Nielson, K.A., Smith, J.C., Seidenberg, M., Durgerian, S., Norman, A., Matthews, M., Lancaster, M., Hazlett, K.E., Figueroa, C.M., Kay, C., Kandah, C., & Rao, S.M. Performance variability during a multitrial list-learning task as a predictor of future cognitive decline in healthy elders. Under review.

Nielson, K., Arentsen, T.J. & Wulff, L. Muscle tension induced after learning by handgrip isometric exercise enhances narrative and visual memory in healthy older adults. Under Review.

Dressaire, D., Stone, C., Nielson, K.A., Guerdoux, E., Martin, S., & Luminet, O. Alexithymia impairs the cognitive control of both negative and neutral emotional material in adults: a directed forgetting study. Under Review.

Yoon, T., Vanden Noven, M., Nielson, K.A., & Hunter, S.K. Brain areas that modulate force steadiness and intensity during isometric ankle dosiflexion in men and women. Under review.


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