Michael Marsiske, Ph.D. • Associate Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology
College of Public Health and Health Professions

Michael Marsiske is focused on advancing the science and practice of cognitive interventions for older adults.

For the past 25 years, he has been engaged in a continuous program of research involved with identifying and evaluating cognitive intervention strategies for older adults. Late life cognitive decline is a significant public health problem, but the science of cognitive training is also a substantial empirical puzzle. A key goal is to find interventions that are cost-effective, durable, and that generalize to help elders maintain independent functioning and quality of life.

In the largest of Marsiske’s funded investigations (the ACTIVE trial), he conducted a ten-year clinical trial of cognitive interventions with community-dwelling older adults. His research showed that brief (ten-hour) interventions can produce substantial gains in age-sensitive areas of cognition like memory, reasoning, and speed of processing. In addition, these gains are durable (lasting up to ten years). Persons receiving training report less functional limitation/greater ability to perform tasks of daily living, even ten years post-training. Even in persons with prodromal cognitive impairment, training in non-memory domains can be highly effective and durable. Persons receiving training also report higher health related quality of life, reduced depressive symptoms, and more personal control.

Other recent funding has been aimed at extending the ACTIVE work to identify interventions that can be situated in the home environment and be self-administered (e.g., video games, home-based training software, and physical exercise). These interventions should have features of incremental difficulty, so that they offer a continuous challenge to older adults and generalize to important areas of daily function, like driving and mobility.

Marsiske’s professional goals also include training and supporting the next generation of gerontological/geriatric scholars, armed with the sharpest methodological tools for studying the major health-related issues of aging. He has written and mentored several institutional and individual training grants in this area. His research and training goals also converge in the area of health disparities, and he is committed, in particular, to applying his cognitive intervention research to focus on reducing race/ethnicity related disparities in rates of cognitive decline and cognitive impairment.