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Vonetta Dotson

Associate Professor    

PhD., University of Florida, 2006


Clinical neuropsychology; cognitive neuroscience of depression; aging


My research program centers on understanding the underlying neurobiology of depression and its relationship to cognitive changes and functional deficits in older adults. This work is translational in nature, with the goal of improving the diagnosis and treatment of mood 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 late-life depression, as well as the cognitive and functional consequences of these neural changes. Over the years, I have developed a particular niche in elucidating cognitive and neural correlates of subthreshold depressive symptoms. This focus has tremendous clinical significance given that such symptoms are more common in older adults than major depression and are associated with similar negative outcomes (e.g., cognitive, brain, and functional outcomes) as clinical depression.
  2. Studies Establishing the Importance of Symptom Dimensions of Depression: Depression is a clinically heterogeneous disorder, with significant variability in symptom profiles of individuals with both subthreshold and major depression. A small but growing body of work has supported the idea of different genetic risks and etiological contributors associated with different symptom dimensions of depression (e.g., affective, cognitive, and somatic symptoms). My recent work has focused on establishing that symptom dimensions are differentially related to cognitive functioning, brain structure, and brain function. 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.
  3. Exercise Interventions to Improve Mood and Brain Function in Older Adults: Given depression-related neurobiological abnormalities that have been elucidated by my own work and the work of others, I became interested in interventions that not only improve mood, but also address these underlying neurobiological changes. Evidence suggests that physical exercise might be such an intervention

I am also interested in health disparities and in increasing the representation of ethnic minorities in neuropsychological and neuroscience research.

Recent Representative Peer Reviewed Publications

*indicates mentored student first author

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., Manini, T.M., Pahor, M., & LIFE Study Group (2016). Genetic moderators of the impact of physical activity on depressive symptoms. Journal of Frailty and Aging, 5(1), 6-14. doi: 10.14283/jfa.2016.76

*McLaren, M.E., Szymkowicz, S.M., Kirton, J.W., & Dotson, V.M. (2015). Impact of education on memory deficits in subclinical depression. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 30, 387–393. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acv038. PMCID: PMC4542750

*Kirton, J. W., Resnick, S. M., Davatzikos, C. Kraut, M. A. & Dotson, V. M. (2013). Depressive symptoms, symptom dimensions and white matter lesion volume in older adults: a longitudinal study. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22(12),1469-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2013.10.005. PMCID: PMC3984387

For a full list of my publications, please see my NCBI bibliography.