Tomiko Yoneda Graduate Student
Supervisor: Andrea M. Piccinin
Over the past seven years, I have been on a fulfilling journey in which my initial curiosity in studying aging has developed into a committed passion for improving the quality of life for older adults and individuals with dementia. The fuel that sparked my initial interest was an experiential psychology course focused on adult development and aging. As part of the class, I volunteered at a long-term care facility where I completed a life review with one of the residents. This experience was so impactful that it inspired my dedication to aging research. Since then, I have been proactive in seeking novel and varied opportunities to work with older adults, and my resulting research and volunteer experiences have subsequently led to a more specialized interest in the cognitive decline that are normative in older adulthood and the widespread cognitive deterioration that impairs daily functioning and quality of life for individuals with dementia.
My master’s thesis and the research articles that were initiated by that work, investigated preclinical personality change in three studies of aging, providing the opportunity for immediate conceptual replication and comparison of results. Applying univariate latent growth curve modelling, I identified a consistent pattern of significant increases in neuroticism in individuals with incident dementia. This research was the first to longitudinally examine self-report measures of personality traits preceding dementia diagnosis, and may be valuable for facilitating development of screening assessments and early treatment strategies.
As a volunteer and part-time employee at the Alzheimer Society for three years, I gained extensive training and experience with dementia and caregiving issues. My volunteer and academic experiences have led me to clearly see the need for high-quality research investigating risk factors and early indicators of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. For my dissertation, I hope to examine the association between blood pressure variability and cognitive impairment in older adulthood using a device contingent design focused on both between- and within-peron variability.