Jenna L. Merenstein, Ph.D.
I obtained a B.S. in Psychology (with a concentration in Mind, Brain, and Behavior) from Colorado State University and Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from Dr. Lani Bennett's Laboratory of Aging and Neurocognitive Imaging at the University of California, Riverside. Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Associate working in Dr. David Madden's laboratory at Duke University Medical Center.
My research uses MRI to assess the effect of brain aging on various cognitive abilities in adults across the lifespan. Age-related cognitive deficits are often attributed to dysfunction within distinct brain regions, but our cognitive abilities are ultimately supported by broader brain-wide networks. To study this, I use combine multiple MRI modalities to assess relations between white matter microstructure (diffusion MRI) and gray matter activity (functional MRI) across the brain. My work is motivated by the cortical disconnection model, which proposes that age-related structural degradation of white matter connections between gray matter regions ultimately results in cognitive dysfunction in older adults. Because the degree of age-related cognitive deficits (or preservation) vary across older adults, I also study individual differences in brain aging by recruiting subgroups with superior or impaired cognition, as well as the oldest-old (ages 80+ years).
My ultimate career goal is to establish my own laboratory investigating the neural underpinnings of cognition in both healthy adults and those with cognition impairment or Alzheimer's disease. To achieve this goal, I am currently working on developing a unique research program that uses advanced multimodal neuroimaging techniques to study neurocognitive aging. Specifically, I am learning to use graph theory to examine resting-state and task-related functional MRI connectivity, as well as white matter structural connectivity, and how they contribute to individual and age-related differences in fluid cognition.