KSU student to present research at undergraduate symposium

Haley Baker

Senior psychology major Fawn Gordon will be one of many students presenting research at Kent State’s first undergraduate research symposium April 2 from 1 to 5 p.m. on the fifth floor of the University Library.     

Her poster will present work from the Hughes lab, which studies cognitive functioning in male heart-failure patients.

“I started out as a proctor in Misty Hawkins’ psychology lab, and then she presented the idea to me to submit an abstract about this study being done here on campus called Heart ABC,” Gordon said.

The Heart Failure Adherence, Behavior and Cognition Study (Heart ABC) is a study that was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.  Kent State and Case Western Reserve University collaborated on this project between the different labs at each university.

The primary investigators were Dr. Joel Hughes of Kent State and Dr. Mary Dolansky of CWRU.  The sample was comprised of patients with heart failure from Summa Health Systems, Inc. and University Hospitals. The data collection was finished in 2013 and found that male heart-failure patients have a higher risk for memory loss.

Gordon and her lab partner, junior psychology major Erin Andro, will be presenting data they collected conducting similar tests that Heart ABC has conducted. However, in addition to the data from the Heart ABC study, Gordon and Andro work with research fellow Misty Hawkins, who has a doctorate in clinical health psychology.

“When I first applied I thought it was going to have more to do with the heart, but we work with Dr. Hawkins and her focus is on obesity,” Gordon said. “We are testing how obesity, depression and cognitive functioning are all related. We give each participant a series of surveys that collect information about demographics, food bias and cognitive ability such as letter sequencing and memory.”

Hawkins said that males in particular have a worse prognosis in this study because of the heightened risk for heart failure and obesity.

“We wanted to look at this population because studies have found that BMI [Body Mass Index] is related to cognitive deficits,” Hawkins said. “BMI is related to cognitive deficits, so we are looking at how all of these are related. Male heart-failure patients are at a heightened risk for memory loss anyway, and then you add obesity on top of that, and it all affects cognitive functioning.”

Hawkins said the major concern with this population is adherence to a medical regimen.

“With all these things going on, that person will have to be on a complicated medical regimen, which they might have trouble adhering to because of cognitive deficits,” Hawkins said. “This is important because additional intervention may be needed for this population.”

Gordon said that working with Hawkins has been a valuable experience.

“My dream is to become a clinician, but I want all this scientific background because I feel like if I understand the studies and I know how to find what ways work best for therapy that it will help me be a better clinician,” Gordon said.

Andro said working in the lab is different than she thought it would be, but she has learned a lot in this experience.

“This experience has helped me learn a lot about how research can really help people,” Andro said. “The best part about all this is that the research we gather can help people with memory problems and maybe we can find a way to help them.”

Along with Gordon and Andro, several other students from all majors will be presenting research at the symposium and competing for cash prizes. This is a free event that is open to the public.

Contact Haley Baker at [email protected].