Megan Zuelsdorff, PhD
Position title: Assistant Professor
3115 Signe Skott Cooper Hall
Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Demography of Health and Aging
PhD, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Population Health Sciences
MS, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Population Health Sciences
BS, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Neuroscience
Dr. Zuelsdorff is an epidemiologist studying social-biological mechanisms that underlie cognitive health and health disparities in older populations. Primary goals of her research program include identifying 1) community-specific dementia risk factors, as well as 2) personal, community, and policy-based resources that delay impairment and reduce burden.
Research focus areas
Aging & Care for Older Adults
My work in this area centers models of (1) stress and coping, and (2) environmental enrichment, to understand the roles for stress and social connection in health trajectories during later life:
- How does adversity get “under the skin” to impact brain health and cognition across the life course?
- How do social engagement and relationships promote better brain health and cognitive function during later life?
- How do aspects of the social environment influence symptoms and daily function in persons living with impairment?
My work in this area seeks to fill gaps in what is known about modifiable risk and protective factors for dementia and cognitive impairment in populations at disproportionately high risk for dementia that have also been historically excluded from research. My current studies prioritize partnership with Native, Black, and rurally-residing older adults.
- Do social inequities in exposure to chronic and/or acute stressors contribute to inequities in cognitive aging trajectories?
- How do social conditions promote or prevent exposure to known dementia risk and protective factors (e.g., poor sleep, physical activity)?
- What community-specific resources promote cognitive resilience within underserved and/or minoritized populations?
- How can we improve measurement of community-specific stressors and resources across diverse populations?
Health Systems & Public Health
My work in this area broadly considers what communities and institutions can do to improve clinical practices and environmental conditions salient for healthy brain aging:
- What can acute care providers do to reduce risk of care-related cognitive changes in older patients, and ensure that patients are linked with adequate post-care resources?
- What community-level resources reduce stress and foster continuing social connection in persons across all levels of physical and/or functional ability?