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Diana S. Woodruff-Pak, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, Neurology, and Radiology



The major focus of my laboratory is on the neurobiology of learning and memory. We carry out parallel studies in rabbits and humans primarily using the well-characterized behavioral paradigm of eyeblink classical conditioning. How normal aging affects learning and memory is a central feature of many of our investigations. We also test neurological patients with lesions in the cerebellum, hippocampus, or basal ganglia as well as patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Eyeblink conditioning differentiates patients with Alzheimer's disease from their age-matched counterparts, and our recent data suggest that eyeblink conditioning may have utility in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Before declarative memory is impaired, individuals who later become demented perform poorly on eyeblink conditioning.

Among the ongoing research in the laboratory are experiments testing the cerebellar and hippocampal substrates of associative learning in rabbits. At present, we are testing cognition-enhancing drugs in rabbits for the eventual application to Alzheimer's disease. In humans we are performing anatomical MRI studies to determine hippocampal volume in elderly adults who are good or poor conditioners, functional MRI of tasks engaging the cerebellum, functional MRI of eyeblink conditioning in young and elderly adults and patients with Alzheimer's disease, dual-task investigations of cognition in young and older adults, and levels of awareness in participants in relation to ability to classically condition.