GSA 2010: an eye-opening experience

What happens when you organize a conference based on a population rather than a field of study? Everybody gets an eye-opening experience! At the end of November, members of Brandeis Psychology and Neuroscience community presented research at the 63rd annual Gerontological Society of America conference. Members from Art Wingfield’s Memory and Cognition Lab, Derek Isaacowitz’s Emotion Lab, and Margie Lachman’s Lifespan Developmental Psychology Lab all presented research at this conference.
This conference includes research on a wide area of aging topics from many different disciplines: behavioral and social sciences, health sciences, biological sciences, and social policy and practice.

To give an idea of the variety of ideas discussed at the conference, here is a sampling of session titles:

  • “Introduction to medicare part d data for research”
  • “Differences in Stroke Care Settings: Findings from the Patient Preference for Stroke Study”
  • “Age-related Differences and Similarities in Learning and Memory”
  • “Followed to extinction: Predictors of exceptional Survival in Very Long Term Cohort Studies”
  • “Composition Changes and Muscle Function: Targets for Preserving Health and Function”

This conference allowed members of the Brandeis scientific community to share their research with peers in their field and members of their academic family, as well as scientists and professionals from other fields. Although sharing research with your peers is always a productive experience, interacting with those from completely other fields also proved to be an invaluable exercise. It allowed attendees to be reminded of the assumptions that are made within any given discipline or paradigm, and allowed practice in communicating results to a broader audience.

All of this took place in the great city of New Orleans. The Cajun was music and food was enjoyed by many, and a great great time was had by all!

Control beliefs, social support, and physical exercise are probably good for you

In a paper recently publised in PLoS One entitled Promoting functional health in midlife and old age: long-term protective effects of control beliefs, social support, and physical exercise, Margie Lachman, Minnie and Harold Fierman Professor of Psychology, and Brandeis postdoc Stefan Agrigoroaei analyzed data from MIDUS, a national longitudinal study of “Midlife in the US”. Controlling for other risks, the authors found significant positive contributions from three additional factors in the functional health outcome in these older adults:

  1. Control beliefs (the perception that one can influence what happens in one’s life)
  2. Social support (feeling support, not strain, in relationships with family, friends, and spouse)
  3. Physical exercise

Since I’ll be healthier if I believe I can control my health this way, why not give it a try? The popular press is also picking up on these ideas.

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