Denise Head

Denise Head

​Associate Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Research Assistant in Radiology
Affiliated Faculty in African and African-American Studies
PHD, University of Memphis
MS, University of Memphis
BS, University of New Orleans

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1125
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

​The broad focus of Denise Head's research program is the exploration of the constellation of the age-related brain changes and their relations with cognition.

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 the brain and accompanying cognitive changes with both normal and pathological aging examined. An example is the delineation of the component processes that contribute to age-related deficits in spatial navigation and associated brain changes. The second major concentration involves examination of moderators and mediators of brain and cognitive aging, including such factors as cardiovascular health, exercise, lifetime stress and personality traits. The third major component of my research program entails investigation of the efficacy of intervention and training. In this area, the research focuses on aerobic exercise and cognitive training. The underlying objective of all these research lines is to gain a greater understanding of the neural underpinnings 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.