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Two elderly people holding hands

Cognitive training to protect immune systems of older caregivers

Research project

Quick facts

Director/PI: Principal Investigator Kathi Heffner (School of Nursing); Co-Investigator Silvia Sörensen (Warner School of Education and Human Development)

Collaborators: Kathi Heffner, Jan Moynihan,  Silvia Sörensen

Funding: National Institute on Aging


This study tests the effectiveness and mechanisms of cognitive training for spousal caregivers of patients with dementia in protecting against chronic stress-induced aging of the immune system.

This project is led by Dr. Kathi Heffner. Caregivers are offered a computer-based cognitive training program that targets multiple domains of fluid cognitive abilities, and is known to positively affect older adults’ emotional well-being and health-related quality of life. The study tests whether speed of processing training has significant effects on markers of older adults’ the autonomic nervous system, emotion regulation and general emotional well-being, and immune function. As co-investigator, Sörensen contributes her expertise in caregiver interventions and her experience with community outreach to this project.