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A Population Neuroscience Approach to Subjective Wellbeing in Older Adults

Ehrenkranz, Rebecca C (2023) A Population Neuroscience Approach to Subjective Wellbeing in Older Adults. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Subjective wellbeing in older adults is an understudied yet important aspect of healthy aging. As the population of adults over age 65 is projected to grow rapidly, new avenues to promote wellbeing in older adults are necessary, but more knowledge is needed about the determinants of wellbeing. This dissertation takes a novel population neuroscience approach to assess markers of wellbeing, such as energy, at the epidemiological and neurobiological level in older adults without neurological diseases. This dissertation shifts away from negative stereotypes about aging and emphasizes the impact of energy-related states.
I estimated the prevalence of self-reported energy and fatigue levels in the Health ABC cohort (N = 2,613, 51% female, 38% Black), and their impacts on mobility and cognition. Next, I investigated neural correlates of energy-related constructs (meaning and purpose, self-efficacy, life satisfaction, and positive affect) in the Connectomics of Brain Aging and Dementia Study (N = 245, 64% female, 47% Black). Based on my literature review on the clinical and neurobiological characteristics of energy-related states, I hypothesized that energy and related constructs would be: a) protective against gait speed and cognitive decline, even for those co-reporting fatigue; b) positively associated with corticostriatal network connectivity regulating reward, executive function, and sensorimotor coordination; c) associations between network connectivity and wellbeing would differ by cognitive status.
My results indicate that higher energy and wellbeing scores: a) are commonly reported in older adults, and predict less decline in rapid gait speed, even for those co-reporting fatigue; b) are related to lower connectivity in executive and reward corticostriatal networks among cognitively normal older adults, but not sensorimotor networks. Conversely, cognitively impaired older adults maintained similar levels of wellbeing to cognitively normal participants and had higher connectivity in executive corticostriatal networks.
My findings indicate that higher energy levels may be protective against mobility decline in those co-reporting fatigue. Wellbeing in older adults may be regulated by corticostriatal networks, and associations between network connectivity and wellbeing differs based on cognitive status. These findings underscore the relevance of assessing wellbeing and may inform future treatments, such as targeted behavioral therapies, or neurostimulation.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ehrenkranz, Rebecca Cree24@pitt.eduree240000-0003-2810-6045
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRosano, Caterinarosanoc@edc.pitt.edurosanoc
Committee MemberGlynn, Nancyepidnwg@pitt.eduepidnwg
Committee MemberBertolet, Marniemhb12@pitt.edumhb12
Committee MemberBerman,
Date: 28 June 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 May 2023
Approval Date: 28 June 2023
Submission Date: 13 June 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 173
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Epidemiology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: population neuroscience, subjective wellbeing, energy, older adults, epidemiology
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2023 15:10
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2023 15:10


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