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Vonetta Dotson

Associate Professor    ,

PhD., University of Florida, 2006


Clinical neuropsychology; cognitive neuroscience of depression; aging


My work is at the intersection of clinical psychology, neuropsychology, and cognitive neuroscience, as my lab uses neuroimaging and behavioral techniques to understand positive (e.g., exercise) and negative (e.g., depression) modifiers of brain health in older adults, including health disparities in age-related cognitive and mood disorders. As a scientist-practitioner, I have always been passionate about research that is translational in nature, and thus has implications for how we diagnose, treat, and prevent cognitive and affective disorders. Specifically, my research has primarily centered on the following foci:

  1. Cognitive and Neuroimaging Studies of Late-life Depressive Disorders: My overarching research interest is in understanding neurobiological mechanisms that contribute to the spectrum of late-life depressive disorders, as well as the cognitive and functional consequences of these neural changes. I am particularly interested in understanding the neurobiology of different symptom dimensions of depression (e.g., negative affect, lack of positive affect, and somatic symptoms) in order to identify subtypes of depression that might respond differentially to treatments. This work is consistent with the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Project, which focuses on translational cognitive neuroscience studies that may inform targeted treatment by examining dimensions of behavior.
  2. Exercise Interventions to Improve Mood and Brain Function in Older Adults: Physical exercise is an ideal intervention to address both mood and cognitive symptoms in older adults based on research showing that it 1) is an effective treatment for depression, 2) enhances cognitive functioning in normal aging and in other patient populations, and 3) targets many of the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie both mood and cognitive functioning. I am interested in answering questions about the impact of exercise on neurobiology, mood, and cognitive functioning in older adults and the potential of using different forms of exercise as an alternative or adjunctive treatment for late-life depression.
  3. Health Disparities in Age-Related Cognitive and Mood Disorders: Black older adults are at increased risk for cognitive and mood disorders due to a variety of factors including health disparities in chronic health conditions associated with these disorders, as well as the cumulative effect of race-related stressors over their lifetime. My lab is conducting cognitive and affective neuroscience studies of mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and depression in Black older adults, who are generally underrepresented in these areas of research, to identify and minimize racial disparities in this vulnerable group.



To view all my publications, please visit my Google Scholar page

Recent Representative Peer-Reviewed Publications *indicates mentored student first author

  • Dotson, V.M. & Duarte, A. (2019).The importance of diversity in cognitive neuroscience. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14268
  • Dotson, V.M., Szymkowicz, S.M., Kim, J.U., & McClintock, S.M. (2018). Cognitive functioning in late-life depression: A critical review of sociodemographic, neurobiological, and treatment correlates. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports, 5(4), 310-318. doi: 10.1007/s40473-018-0159-4
  • Dotson, V.M. (2017). Variability in Depression: What Have We Been Missing? American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 25(1), 23-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2016.10.005
  • *O’Shea, D.M., Dotson, V.M., & Fieo R.A. (2016). Aging perceptions and self-efficacy mediate the association between personality traits and depressive symptoms in non-demented older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. doi: 10.1002/gps.4584
  • *Szymkowicz, S.M., McLaren, M.E., O’Shea, A., Woods, A.J., Anton, S.D., & Dotson, V.M. (2016). Depressive symptoms moderate age effects on hippocampal subfields. Geriatrics & Gerontology International. doi: 10.1111/ggi.12901
  • *De Wit, L., Kirton, J.W., O’Shea, D. M., Szymkowicz, S. M., McLaren, M. E., & Dotson, V. M (2016). Effects of body mass index and years of education on verbal and nonverbal memory. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition. doi: 10.1080/13825585.2016.1194366
  • *McLaren, M.E., Szymkowicz, S.M., O’Shea, A., Woods, A.J., Anton, S.D., & Dotson, V.M. (2016). Symptom dimensions of subthreshold depression and cingulate volumes in older adults. Translational Psychiatry, 6, e788. doi:10.1038/tp.2016.49
  • *Szymkowicz, S.M., McLaren, M.E., Kirton, J.W., O’Shea, A., Woods, A.J., Manini, T.M., Anton, S.D., & Dotson, V.M. (2016). Depressive symptom severity is associated with increased cortical thickness in older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 31, 325–333. doi: 10.1002/gps.4324. PMCID: PMC4724336
  • Dotson, V.M., Hsu, F.C., Langaee, T.Y., McDonough, C.W., King, A.C., Cohen, R.A., Newman, A.B., Kritchevsky, S.B., Myers, V.,