The Center for Vital Longevity is a research center focused on understanding and expanding the capacity of the aging mind. Center researchers use cutting edge brain imaging technologies and advances in cognitive science to understand (a) how the brain changes from young to old adulthood; (b) the consquences of neural aging for everyday function; and (c) what interventions show promise for slowing cognitive aging. For more information, please visit our center website.


Dr. Park is the T. Boone Pickens Distinguished University Chair of Brain Science and a Regents Research Scholar at The University of Texas at Dallas. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association (APA), the Gerontological Society of America and the Association for Psychological Sciences (APS). She received the Distinguished Research Contributions Award from the Division of Adult Development and Aging of the APA and is also past president of the Division. She has served on the Board of Directors of the APS, chaired the Board of Scientific Affairs of the APA, and chaired several NIH study sections.


Dallas Lifespan Brain Study

This project is one of the largest projects in the United States that examines neural and cognitive aging across the entire adult lifespan. The study involves a search for a neural signature that will predict who will and will not age well and has a particular focus on middle age. It is funded by a MERIT award and Competitive Supplement to Denise C Park from the National Institute on Aging and also by an R21 award to Hanzhang Lu of UTSW Medical School. Nearly 400 participants will be tested in this study, utilizing functional and structural imaging, amyloid imaging, neurogenetics, and cognitive measures. Drs. Kristen Kennedy and Karen Rodrigue are lead researchers on the project and it is overseen by Blair Flicker.

Synapse Project

This study is an intervention study that focuses on understanding whether sustained immersion over a period of months in cognitive, physical, and social activities facilitates maintenance of a healthy mind and brain. It is funded by an R01 award and a Challenge Grant from the National Institute on Aging to Denise C Park. Dr, Jennifer Lodi-Smith directs and is lead researcher on the study. Dr. Rong Zhang of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, along with Drs. Karen Rodrigue and Kristen Kennedy direct the exercise component. The project was recently featured in the New York Times.

Aging, Culture, and Cognition Project

This study examines cognitive and neural aging in participants in the U.S. and Singapore. Results demonstrate cultural experiences sculpt activation patterns in perceptual areas (ventral visual cortex) of the brain. The project is funded by an R01 award from the National Institute on Aging to Denise C. Park and is conducted in collaboration with neurologist Dr. Michael Chee of Duke University/National University of Singapore. Dr. Josh Goh is lead scientist on this project.