Augusta, GA— Amanda Dojack, a senior kinesiology major in the College of Education, presented new research on the relationship between cognitive performance and cardiovascular health in older versus younger people at the 19th annual Phi Kappa Phi Student Research and Fine Arts Conference at Augusta University on March 18.
Dojack’s presentation, “Education and Fitness Benefits Cognitive Performance in an Older Age,” was her honors thesis as part of the Honors Program at Augusta University.
“We are comparing the cognitive scores, fitness assessment and the educational backgrounds of an older population to a younger population. We are looking to see if either the physical aspects or education plays a role in their cognitive score. Essentially we are looking to see if there are any aspects that are going to slow cognitive decline in an older population,” Dojack said.
The participants underwent a physical and a modified YMCA Bench Step Test for Cardiovascular Fitness. For the cognitive portion, the participants took a military grade cognitive exam that tested things like reaction time and memory.
“What we are seeing is that both populations were equally fit. Most of our older population had completed graduate school, and in five out of the six tests the older population actually scored higher than the younger population. We are seeing that a balance of staying healthy and fit combined with attaining higher education and constantly retraining your brain is the way to keep your mind sharp,” Dojack said.
Dr. Maleah Holland, professor of kinesiology, was Dojack’s advisor on her project. Holland said that the conference provides good practice for students to learn how to translate their research into language someone unfamiliar with the field could understand.
“Practicing presentation skills and being able to condense complex procedures and concepts into clear communication for different audiences is just one benefit of participating in undergraduate research. But because Amanda has been accepted into Physical Therapy at AU Health, she will be able to use and further her research and apply it to her career,” Holland said.
Dr. Amos Meyers, professor of kinesiology, also said that they hope to get a few publications out of Dojack’s work.
“Undergraduate research really benefits those students who have a strong desire to explore new topics. It puts them in the right mindset to test their hypotheses and advance knowledge in their fields. Amanda stands out by constantly talking to people around the department seeking information, and eventually found an idea to spark her research,” Meyers said.
Phi Kappa Phi is the oldest and largest all-discipline honor society in the nation. The conference is a unique opportunity for students to learn presentation skills and how to narrow their ideas down into a concise speech.
Dojack is from the Augusta area and attended Westside High School. She dual-enrolled her senior year, and has attended Augusta University all four years of her undergraduate. She has also committed to three more years at the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.