Biodemography of Aging

This field at the intersection of biology and demography continues to tackle fundamental questions in aging, such as whether there are limits to lifespan and healthspan, and the biological mechanisms underlying plausible plasticity in such spans. The two major strands of research in this exploding field are mathematical modeling and genetic evolutionary demography.

The Cardenas Lab. Andres Cardenas (School of Public Health), established a lab that leverages data and samples from epidemiological studies to investigate the impact of the environment on the epigenome and its contribution to the development of health and disease. They leverage high dimensional epigenetic data and high-quality epidemiological studies to test novel hypotheses on the fetal origins of health and disease, epigenetic aging and early-life adversity. Visit the lab website.

Individual human decision-making in producing societal-level outcomes. Ming Hsu’s area of research focuses on neuroscience and behavioral economics. A large project, funded by NSF, is “An Interdisciplinary Approach to Predicting Unequal Treatment” builds upon evidence from cognitive neuroscience that valuation and social cognition engage separable but interacting systems, the research uses computational modeling to formally integrate psychological frameworks of how people see others (social perception) with behavioral economic accounts of how people value others’ outcomes (social valuation). It then uses those models to predict how people will treat members of different social groups in laboratory and field settings. Emerging from this area of work is a CEDA-funded pilot grant, “Dopaminergic Mechanisms Underlying Human Social Behavior: A Multimodal Approach” with Andrew Kayser, seeks to develop theoretical, quantitative models of the basic cognitive mechanisms underlying human social decision-making, and understand the influence of neuromodulators such as dopamine on these mechanisms, has important ramifications for both healthy and patient populations. The researchers combine quantitative social measures, computational models, neuroimaging, and a pharmacological intervention to define the mechanisms of social decision-making.

Recording Lifetime Activity, sleep patterns and reproduction to assess health span and predict time-to-death in the Mediterranean fruit fly. James Carey (UC Davis), Nikos Papadopoulos (University of Thesalloniki); Nikos Kouloussis, PhD (Agricultural University of Athens, Greece); Hans Müller (UC Davis); Jane-Ling Wang (UC Davis). Lifespan extension itself is no longer considered sufficient evidence of delayed aging in research animals. Potential measures of health in model organisms needs to be considered for their potential as easily standardized, highly-informative metrics. Following on this concept this research has two primary aims:(1) Technology development–Adapt a monitoring system originally designed to record activity in Drosophila for use in (a) recording the activity of the much larger Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly); and (b) for gathering daily egg laying data; and (2) System validation, data analysis and publication.