Research at HealthStreet: Is your age affecting your emotions? A new study is attempting to find out!

Researchers in the department of Clinical and Health Psychology in the College of Public Health & Health Professions at the University of Florida are currently investigating how the mechanisms of experiencing emotion change as a person ages.

One study, called Age-Related Mechanisms of Emotion Anticipation and Perception, is clarifying whether the brain relies on one set of networks to anticipate and perceive emotion, or if these two processes occur within separate networks. The research is focused on discovering whether age differences in these processes exist.

Principal Investigator Vonetta Dotson, PhD and Study Coordinator Sarah Szymkowicz, MS, are trying to unravel the mystery. “We know that emotional experience changes with age,” Szymkowicz said, “but it is not clear whether the brain changes that occur with aging interrupt brain networks related to emotion anticipation, emotion perception, or both.”

In order to understand how the aging process affects an individual’s emotional behavior, the team is increasing the knowledge of brain networks. This project “seeks to clarify whether there are separate brain networks involved” in these processes and “whether age differences in [them] exist.”

Szymkowicz said that the ultimate goal is to understand how these processes are involved in disorders such as depression and Parkinson’s disease to assist in targeting treatments to specific components. She mentioned that this could “reduce the burden of late-life mental health disorders.”


HealthStreet plays an important role for participation recruitment. “Additional recruitment methods (via HealthStreet) improves our research by giving us a more representative sample,” Dotson said.

If you are interested in participating in similar health research studies or medical or social referrals, reach out to HealthStreet at 352-294-4880 and we can refer you to any mental health services.