Research Projects

Research Projects 

Janelle Beadle, PhD

The Impact of Aging on the Neural and Behavioral Bases of Empathy
Led by Dr. Janelle Beadle

Dr. Beadle completed her doctoral training in neuroscience at the University of Iowa under the mentorship of Drs. Daniel Tranel and Sergio Paradiso.  Following this, she completed postdoctoral training in social neuroscience under the mentorship of Dr. Angela Gutchess at Brandeis University. The final phase of her postdoctoral training was completed back at the University of Iowa under the mentorship of Drs. Melissa Duff and Laurie McCormack and focused on the neural bases of social cognition. Her current work examines the neural and psychological bases of empathy through studies of patients with acquired brain injury, psychiatric disease, and healthy aging.

Study Overview:
This proposal will investigate the trajectory of age-related changes in the cognitive and emotional subtypes of empathy through behavioral and functional neuroimaging methods.

Specific Aims:

  • Identify age-related alterations in cognitive and emotional empathy, and map the key brain regions and networks using task-based and resting-state fMRI
  • Determine the degree to which age-related decline in other cognitive domains contributes to changes in empathic function
  • Map the lifespan trajectories of the subtypes of empathy and general cognitive function, and determine whether changes in these constructs are age-dependent using biological and chronological metrics

Study Sample Population:
116 healthy adults (25-75 years-old)

Understanding how aging affects the neural circuitry supporting empathy subtypes is critical, as changes in empathy have been associated with depression, and overall life satisfaction, and may be selectively affected in different forms of age-related dementias. The results of this proposal will lay the groundwork for the development of interventions designed to target specific subtypes of empathy, with widespread implications for clinical populations experiencing reduced empathy.