NIH awards $2.5 million to Aging and Development training program

Denise Head and Jeff Zacks have won a renewal grant to continue the longest running graduate and postdoctoral training program funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Jeff Zacks and Denise Head, professors of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences and codirectors of the department’s Aging and Development program, have been awarded a five year, $2.5 million renewal training grant from the National Institute of Aging (NIA). The grant covers the education and training of five doctoral students and three postdoctoral fellows. Originally awarded in 1976 to Marion Bunch of the Department of Psychology, the grant is now in its 46th year, making it the longest running training grant awarded by the NIA.

This spring, Jeffrey Zacks and Denise Head became codirectors of the long-running Aging and Development program housed in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. 

Zacks, who chairs the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and began codirecting the program with Head this spring, emphasizes that the renewal was made possible by the success of previous directors and administrators.

“The grant proposal can have prose that absolutely sings,” Zacks said, “but if you haven't been taking care of business, it's not going to be very moving to a review committee.” For the past 15 years David Balota, professor of psychological and brain sciences and radiology, managed the program with the help of Janet Duchek, professor emeritus of psychological and brain sciences and occupational therapy.

According to Zacks, the Aging and Development program at WashU stands out from other institutions because of its broad focus on the many stages of aging, especially adult development. “Aging is both theoretically and societally really important,” Zacks said. “If you want to understand emotion, motor behavior, perception, memory, or thinking, you want to understand how it develops early in the lifespan and how it changes throughout the adult lifespan. At Washington University, we historically have had great strengths in the study of both healthy development and in the diseases of aging, especially Alzheimer disease, and also Parkinson disease, stroke, and traumatic brain injury.”

As codirectors, Head and Zacks plan to build upon the program’s history of excellence and integrate new elements, including additional collaborations with researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine. To learn more about the program, visit the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences.