LIFESPAN DEVELOPMENT

Research examines issues related to human health and well-being across the lifespan, and in contexts such as school and family. Work focuses on biological, physical, cognitive and psychosocial development during a number of critical periods including prenatal, infancy, early childhood, adolescence and throughout adulthood.

THE SOCIAL SIDE OF AGING

More than 70 percent of Americans 65 and older live with two or more chronic medical conditions, or multimorbidity, which can increase their risk for disability and early death. However, some people with multimorbidity have a reasonably high quality of life and remain active. What are the key differences between these people and the ones who become disabled or cognitively impaired? With a $1.2 million grant from the National Institute of Aging, Elliot Friedman is studying the role of psychological factors in determining why some older adults living with two or more chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, are more likely than others to succumb to the effects of aging. “We now have a fair amount of evidence that social and psychosocial experiences can affect your likelihood of getting multiple diseases,” says Friedman, associate professor in HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND FAMILY STUDIES. “It’s important to understand the role of these non-medical factors in the onset and consequences of age-related diseases.”

THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING

In Jeffrey Karpicke’s classroom, you can bet that his students know a thing or two about good study techniques. Karpicke, the James V. Bradley Associate Professor of PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCES, examines the cognitive science of learning, particularly the importance of retrieval processes for learning. Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences, his research has shown that practicing retrieval is a highly effective method for improving long-term learning. Karpicke says he views instruction on how to learn as equally important, if not more important, than instruction about specific content or topics. Work is underway to develop computer-based programs for K-12 and college students that guide them to practice retrieval while they are learning.

EARLY INTERVENTION FOR STUTTERING

The majority of children who stutter eventually grow out of it, but for those who don’t, early intervention can be beneficial. Anne Smith and Christine Weber-Fox, both professors in SPEECH, LANGUAGE, AND HEARING SCIENCES, lead the Purdue Stuttering Project and seek to understand why some children grow out of stuttering. Their findings will be used to develop a speech therapy screening tool to better identify which preschool children are not likely to recover and should receive therapy immediately. “Speech therapy resources are not necessary for every young child who stutters, but the ‘let’s wait and see’ approach is missing children who could benefit from early intervention,” Smith says. This latest study is funded by a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Smith and Weber-Fox have worked together since 1999 and have found that brain functions for speech and language are different in both adults and young children who stutter.

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