Meet the CARDI Fellows: Joanna McHugh
The CARDI Leadership Programme into Ageing Research funds and supports a new generation of leaders in ageing research in Ireland, North and South.
The programme is funded by the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division Northern Ireland and The Atlantic Philanthropies.
The new CARDI Fellows were announced at the inaugural meeting of the CARDI Leadership Programme in Ageing Research in Belfast (Monday 15 Sept 2014). In this series of articles CARDI introduces the Fellows:
Dr Joanna McHugh
Dr Joanna McHugh completed her PhD research at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (2007-2010), where her thesis concerned social and emotional perception. She also holds a first class honours BA in Psychology (2006) from University College Dublin. Dr McHugh worked for the NEIL (Neuro-Enhancement for Independent Lives) Research Program as a post-doctoral research fellow before becoming a CARDI Fellow. Her research interests include health behaviours and social functioning in later life, particularly with reference to cognitive outcomes. Within NEIL, she coordinated a randomised controlled trial evaluating a novel nutritional and social intervention for socially isolated older adults. Joanna has published 13 peer-reviewed articles in which she was first named author and presented her research at 19 national and international conferences. Prior to joining NEIL, Joanna was senior post-doctoral research fellow on the “Dem@Care” project, an FP7-funded collaborative project investigating the application of sensor technology to supporting health and social behaviours among individuals with dementia (2012-2013).
The focus of her research as part of the CARDI Leadership Programme is the social determinants of cognitive decline among older adults in Ireland, North and South. It will examine the causal links between loneliness and social isolation and cognitive decline and aims to reveal the mechanisms behind these links studying and comparing longitudinal Irish population studies, TILDA and NICOLA. The project will investigate several factors, such as social support, stress, neuro-inflammation and white matter structural integrity to clarify their contributions to the relationship between social isolation and cognitive outcomes in later life.
Identifying the specific social factors that relate to cognitive decline will be valuable for policy-makers and practitioners alike and can help inform strategies relating to the promotion of social support for older adults in Ireland, North and South. The knowledge generated from this work can also help inform future evidence-based prevention, diagnostic, therapeutic and other strategies for the prevention of dementia.