Kristy Nielsen 2018 Haggerty Faculty Award for Research Excellence Recipient

Professor of Psychology

Dr. Kristy Nielson, professor of psychology, is best known for her research on how the brain adapts to the physiological process of aging, how risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease influence those
processes in people who have yet to express any symptoms, and the importance of lifestyle interventions on those processes. Her work has affected views on how the brain forms and accesses memories.

Nielson, a recipient of the 2018 Lawrence G. Haggerty Award for Research Excellence, is ready to
expand her research toward understanding the brain networks in older adults, especially those at
genetic risk for Alzheimer’s.

Her work is aimed at interrogating the mechanisms of functional brain changes and interventions to
mitigate them. This is accomplished through the uses of neuroimaging, including functional-MRI and electroencephalograph, and developing and testing interventions to mitigate functional decline. Other metrics used include fitness, cardiovascular functioning, pro-inflammatory factors and amyloid burden.

“Research is not just discovery but a habit of critically thinking about difficult issues and challenging oneself to continually strive to answer more and more difficult questions,” Nielson says. “This is the model for my personal development, and I aim to duplicate this in my lab and in the classroom.”