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Research

Health & Aging Studies

Our health and aging research program aims to develop a better understanding of the factors that influence thinking and mental abilities in older age. Previous research shows that variables such as diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices can influence cognition in older age. We are particularly interested in health and lifestyle factors may lead to changes in basic mental abilities (e.g., memory, attention) and real-world problem solving and decision-making.

One aspect of this research program is to investigate the utility of health variables as predictors of cognitive performance in older adults. The prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes increases with older age and in many older adults these health concerns can have a significant impact on overall quality of life. We are interested in understanding how cardiovascular health relates to cognitive performance, as well as how different assessment methods (e.g., blood pressure taken at home by the participant, and in office by the research experimenter) may help us understand this research question.

A second aspect of our aging research is to investigate how older adults perform on tasks of everyday problem solving, decision-making, and social perspective taking. These abilities are important skills for maintaining independence and quality of life in older age, and we wish to understand whether these abilities decline in older age, and if so, what factors may predict this decline (e.g., health, self-efficacy, changes in basic mental abilities).

 

 

Renal Transplant Studies

Research by this lab has previously shown that some cognitive difficulties are common in adults with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), and that cognitive difficulties following successful renal transplant are similar to those seen in individuals with CKD prior to renal failure.  

One critical aspect of real-world functioning following kidney transplant involves adherence to medications regimens, with previous research reporting rates of non-adherence at up to 50% following renal transplant. Several potentially important predictors of medication adherence have been identified including cognitive difficulties, symptoms of depression,  and self-efficacy. One component of our current research in this area is examining the relationships between cognitive abilities, depressive symptoms, self-efficacy and medication adherence, to develop a coherent model of medication adherence among individuals who have undergone renal transplant. 

A second aspect of our research investigates cognitive and health literacy predictors of medication adherence in the renal transplant population. A significant proportion of the Canadian population has suboptimal levels of health literacy, which is the ability to read, understand and use healthcare information to make decisions and follow instructions for treatment. Low health literacy is a predictor of a number of health and disease-related outcomes. As such, we are investigating he prevalence and impact of inadequate health literacy as well as its association with cognition and medication adherence  mong individuals who have undergone renal transplant.

Forthcoming Publications

Thornton, W.J.L., Paterson, T., & Yeung, S. (in press). Age differences in everyday problem solving: The roles of problem context.  International Journal of Behavioral Development.

Manuscripts under Revision

Coolin, A. Bernstein, D.M., Thornton, A.E., Thornton, W.J.L. (under review). Inhibition and episodic memory impact age differences in hindsight bias. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

Paterson, T., Shapiro, R.J., & Thornton, W.J.L. (under review). Mediating medication adherence in renal transplant recipients: The roles of depressive symptoms and cognition.

Recent Publications

Fischer, A.L., Bernstein, D.M. & Thornton, W.J.L. (2013, in press). Vascular health modifies theory of mind performance in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences, 69, 219-227.

Yeung, S.E . & Thornton, W.J.L. (2011). Age-related effects of blood pressure on everyday and traditional neuropsychological function in community-dwelling women.  Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition , 18(6), 733-755.

Paterson, T.,  O’Rourke, N., Elmer, E., Shapiro, R.J., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2011). The composition and structure of depressive symptomatology among chronic kidney disease patients and control participants.  Canadian Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 43(4), 318-327.

Bernstein, D.M., Thornton, W.J.L., & Sommerville, J.A. (2011). Theory of mind through the ages:  Older and middle-aged adults exhibit more errors than do younger adults on a continuous false belief task. Experimental Aging Research, 37: 481-502.

Gelb, S.R., Shapiro, R.J., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2010). Predicting medication adherence and employment status following kidney transplant:  The relative utility of traditional and everyday cognitive approaches. Neuropsychology, 24(4), 514-526.

Thornton, A.E., Kristinsson, H., DeFreitas, V.G. & Thornton, W.J.L. (2010). The ecological validity of everyday cognition in hospitalized patients with serious mental illness. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 32(3), 299-308.

Gelb, S. Shapiro, R.J., Hill, A., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2008). Cognitive outcome following kidney transplantation.  Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation. 23(3)  1032-1038.

Thornton, W.J.L., Deria, S., Gelb, S., Shapiro, R.J. & Hill, A. (2007).  Neuropsychological mediators of the links among Age, Chronic Illness, and Everyday Problem Solving.  Psychology and Aging, 22(3) 470-481.

Thornton, W.J.L., Shapiro, R.J. Deria, S., Gelb, S. & Hill, A. (2007).   Differential effects of age on verbal memory and executive functioning in chronic kidney disease.  Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 13, 344-353.

Thornton, W.J.L. & Dumke, H. (2005). Everyday problem solving and decision making in aging:  A meta-analytic review.  Psychology and Aging. 20(1), 85-99.


Manuscripts in Preparation

Fischer, A.L., O'Rourke, N. & Thornton, W.J.L. (in preparation). Age differences in cognitive and affective theory of mind: Examining contributions of neurocognitive performance, vascular health, and sex. 

Bernstein, D.M., Coburn, P.I., Jayakar, R., Thornton, A.E., & Thornton, W.J.L. (in preparation). Executive function, divided attention, and theory of mind.

Thornton, W.J.L., Deria, S. Shapiro, R.J., & Hill, A. (in preparation). Cognitive status in older adults with chronic kidney disease.

Everyday Problem Solving and Aging

Yeung, S.E., Paterson, T.S.E., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2012, February). Depressive symptoms predict everyday problem solving ability in older, but not young, adults. Poster presented at the 40th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Montreal, QC. [click here to view pdf]

Yeung, S.E., Fischer, A.L., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2010, October). Age differences in neuropsychological predictors of everyday problem solving. Poster presented at the 30th annual conference of the National Academy of Neuropsychology Conference in Vancouver, BC. [click here to view pdf]

Wendy J.L. Thornton, W. J. L., Paterson, T., Yeung, S., & Kubik, J. (2010, August). Age differences in everyday problem solving: The role of problem context. Poster presented at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Diego, CA.

Paterson, T., Kubik, J. L., Yeung, S. E., & Thornton, W. L. (2009, August). Problem familiarity impacts the relationship between self-efficacy and problem-solving performance. Poster presented at the 117th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Toronto, ON.

Theory of Mind, Hindsight Bias, and Aging

Fischer, A.L. & Thornton, W.J.L. (2014, February). Dissociable mechanisms for age differences in cognitive and affective theory of mind: A pilot study examining neurocognitive performance and health status as modifiers. Poster presented at the 42nd annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Seattle, WA.

Zaidi, K.B., Fischer, A.L., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2014, February). Agreeable older adults can read you better: A pilot study on personality and theory of mind. Poster presented at the 42nd annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Seattle, WA.  

Zaidi, K.B., Fischer, A.L., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2013, May). The impact of anxiety symptoms and cognition on theory of mind performance in health adults. Poster presented at the 15th annual meeting of Northwest Cognition and Memory, Surrey, BC.

Fischer, A.L., Coolin, A., Bernstein, D.M., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2013, May). Age, cognitive performance, and theory of mind: Convergent evidence across two narrative-based tasks. Paper presented at the 15th annual meeting of Northwest Cognition and Memory, Surrey, BC.

Coolin, A., Aßfalg, A., Bernstein, D.M., Thornton, J.L., & Sommerville, J.A. (submitted). Decomposing the psychological processes underlying developmental changes in theory of mind. Abstract  submitted to the Society for Research in Child Development.

Coolin, A., Bernstein, D. M, Thornton, A.E., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2012, August). Inhibition and episodic memory impacts age differences in hindsight bias. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Orlando, FL. [click here to view pdf]


Coolin, A., Thornton, W.J.L., & Bernstein, D.M. (2011, April). Neuropsychological functioning predicts hindsight bias in older adults. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the Western Psychological Association in Los Angeles, CA.  [click here to view pdf]

Coolin, A., Thornton, W.J.L., Fischer, A.L., Jayakar, R., & Bernstein, D.M. (2010, February). Toward a process-pure measure of false-belief reasoning in adults. Poster presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Acapulco, Mexico. [click here to view pdf]

Self-rated Health and Neuropsychological Functioning

Fischer, A.L., Yeung, S.E., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2010, October). Neuropsychological predictors of self-rated physical and mental health among community-dwelling older adults. Talk and poster presented at the 30th annual conference of the National Academy of Neuropsychology in Vancouver, BC. [click here to view pdf]

Kubik, J. & Thornton, W.J.L. (2010, February). Medical illness burden and self-rated health in relation to older adults`everyday problem solving. Poster presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Acapulco, Mexico. [click here to view pdf]

Kubik, J. L., Yeung, S. E., Paterson, T., & Thornton, W. L. (2009, February). The impact of health status on everyday problem solving in older adults. Poster presented at the 37th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Atlanta, GA. [click here to view pdf]

Vascular Health, Neuropsychological Functioning, and Aging

Fischer, A.L., Yeung, S.E., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2013, June). Health-related quality of life in a community sample of adults aged 65+ with and without hypertension: Profile trends and relation to clinical and cognitive predictors. Poster presented at the 6th congress of the International Society for Vascular Behavioural and Cognitive Disorders, Toronto, ON.

Yeung, S.E., Fischer, A.L., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2013, June). Implementing an education program to target home blood pressure monitoring in community-dwelling older adults: A pilot study on compliance. Poster presented at the 6th congress of the International Society for Vascular Behavioural and Cognitive Disorders, Toronto, ON.

Fischer, A.L., Thornton, W.J.L. & Bernstein, D.M. (2012, February). Beyond traditional models of theory of mind in normal aging: The modifying influence of blood pressure. Poster presented at the 40th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Montreal, QC. [click here to view pdf]

Fischer, A.L., Coolin, A., Jayakar, R., Bernstein, D.M., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2010, February). Presence of vascular illness impacts theory of mind in older adults. Poster presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Acapulco, Mexico. [click here to view pdf]

Yeung, S.E., & Thornton, W.J.L. (2010, February). The utility of blood pressure in predicting traditional and everyday cognition in older women. Poster presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Acapulco, Mexico. [click here to view pdf]

Yeung, S.E., Kubik, J.L. Paterson, T. & Thornton, W.J.L. (2009, February). Systolic blood pressure as a predictor of everyday problem solving in older women. Poster presented at the 37th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Atlanta, GA.

Psychosocial Functioning in Renal Transplant Recipients

Paterson, T. S. E., Yeung, S. E., & Thornton, W. L. (2012, February). Examination of the relationships between Transplant Effects Questionnaire measured worry, and general symptoms of anxiety and depression in renal transplant patients. Poster Presentation at the 40th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Montreal, QC. [click here to view pdf]

Paterson, T. S. E., O’Rourke, N., & Thornton, W. J. L. (2011, April). Multidimensional Anxiety Questionnaire factor structure among renal disease patients. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the Western Psychological Association in Los Angeles, CA. [click here to view pdf]

Paterson, T. S. E., O’Rourke, N., & Thornton, W. J. L. (2010, October). An examination of the factor structure of the CES-D in Chronic Kidney Disease Patients. Poster Presentation at the 30th annual conference of the National Academy of Neuropsychology in Vancouver, BC. [click here to view pdf]

Paterson, T., Gelb, S., Shapiro, R. J., & Thornton, W. (2008, February). Self-reported depressive symptoms and age predict medication adherence in successful renal transplant patients. Poster presented at the 36th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Waikoloa, HI. [click here to view pdf]

Medication Adherence and Neuropsychological Functioning in Renal Transplant Recipients

Paterson, T., Shapiro, R. J., & Thornton, W. J. L.  (2010, February). Modeling medication adherence: Depression, cognition, and illness variables as contributors to adherence by renal transplant recipients. Poster presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Acapulco, Mexico.

Paterson, T. (2009, December). Predictors of medication adherence in renal transplant patients: Self-efficacy, depressive symptomology, and neuropsychological abilities. Poster presented at the 13th Annual Transplantation Research Day in Vancouver, BC. [click here to view pdf]

Paterson, T., Gelb, S., Shapiro, R. J., & Thornton, W. (2009, February). Self-reported depressive symptoms mediate the relationship between cognition and medication adherence in renal transplant patients. Paper presented at the 37th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Atlanta, GA. 

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