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August 28, 2013
On Aug. 3, Department of Human Development and Family Studies Assistant Professor Allison Bielak received the Springer Early Career Achievement Award in Research on Adult Development and Aging from the American Psychological Association.
Bielak, who joined Colorado State University in 2011, is being honored for her already significant contributions in the area of psychology of adult development and aging. Bielak's current research focuses on differences among individuals in their cognitive performance as they age. She has set out to measure the effects of "lifestyle engagement" including social, mental, and physical activities, on how well people are able to maintain their memory and reasoning as they age.
Research on the effects of lifestyle engagement is of great importance in the context of optimizing healthy cognitive aging because more information is needed on what types of activities are linked to improved reasoning and intellectual abilities. Some research studies find that being active is related to having a better memory and faster reaction time, but other studies find no link at all. These conflicting findings might be because of the way activity participation is measured.
Bielak created the Activity Characteristics Questionnaire as a new way of measuring the daily activities of adults, which focuses on the characteristics of an activity, such as whether creativity is involved. Bielak's research is highly innovative, and has the potential to add significant knowledge to the traditional "use it or lose it" hypothesis of aging. Her current study at the Fort Collins Senior Center seeks to interview 200 older adults about their activity level to determine whether this new method of measuring activity participation is a better predictor of cognitive ability than past methods. The knowledge can be used to advise older adults on what activities they should try to incorporate to promote cognitive health as they age.
See www.hcal.colostate.edu/ for more information on Bielak's lab and research projects.
Bielak's extraordinary impact in the area of lifestyle engagement and cognition is evident in her outstanding research and publication record. To date, she has published 18 articles or chapters in peer-reviewed journals, and served as first author for 11 of those.
In 2010, she published a single-authored paper in the prestigious journal Gerontology with the title "How can we not 'lose' it if we still don't understand how to 'use' it?" Bielak's publications in the area of lifestyle engagement have also appeared in the top journals of the field, including Psychology and Aging; Gerontology; and Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.
The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of the College of Health and Human Sciences.
Contact: Gretchen Gerding