Dodge Lab for the I-CONECT Project

About Us

Decades of research have shown that social interaction is critical for our health. Individuals in social isolation are shown to have a higher risk of mortality, as well as a higher incidence of cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease. Over a decade ago, Dr. Hiroko Dodge and her team started a unique behavioral intervention study to examine whether conversations with study staff using user-friendly video devices could improve cognitive functions and if so, how.  The study started long before the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of social interactions on our emotional, cognitive and overall health. The series of intervention studies is one of the few behavioral randomized controlled trials focusing on social interactions in the oldest old segment of the population, in which social isolation is becoming a significant social issue.

Dr. Dodge’s team is also employing many advanced technologies in assessing whether the social engagement is beneficial, including MedTracker pillboxes that send objective data about medication adherence to the study team in real-time, new cognitive assessment strategies using iPads (e.g., NIH-Toolbox), and innovative analysis techniques to examine participants’ speech and language characteristics and facial expressions. The underlying biological mechanisms of the prevention efficacy are being examined by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other measures.

The implementation of modern communication technologies and applications of AI and machine learning approaches to functional outcomes (e.g., speech and language characteristics and video recordings) have been forming an essential and highly valuable foundation for behavior-based dementia prevention and intervention trials and aiding in the implementation of effective community-based dementia risk reduction approaches.

The lab is affiliated with Alzheimer's Clinical & Translational Research Unit (ACTRU)

Group Members

Core members:

Dodge, Hiroko Hayama, PhD
Member of the Faculty, Harvard Medical School
Director of Research Analytics, Interdisciplinary Brain Center (IBC)
Personal page:

Wu, Chao-Yi, PhD
Instructor, Harvard Medical School
Data Scientist, Interdisciplinary Brain Center (IBC)

Pruitt, Patrick, PhD
fMRI specialist, Interdisciplinary Brain Center (IBC)

Liu (Sam) Chen, PhD
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School
Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and speech/language analytics specialists (IBC)

Key Collaborators:

Zhou, Jiayu, PhD
Associate Professor
Computer Science and Engineering
Michigan State University

Meysam Asgari, PhD
Associate Professor
Oregon Center for Aging and Technology
Oregon Health & Science University

Yize Zhao, PhD
Associate Professor
Yale University

Maritza Dowling, PhD
Associate Professor
Community of Acute and Chronic Care
George Washington University

Jeffrey Kaye, MD
Professor of Neurology and Engineering
Oregon Center for Aging and Technology
Oregon Health & Science University

Lisa Silbert, MD
Professor of Neurology
Oregon Center for Aging and Technology
Oregon Health & Science University

Research Projects

Conversational engagement as a means to delay Alzheimer's disease onset: Phase II
The study, funded by the R01 AG051628 grant, examines conversational engagement delivered using webcam and internet could improve cognitive functions and identifies optimal duration and frequency of conversational engagement required to see the improvement. Targeted subjects are socially isolated seniors aged 75 and older with normal cognition recruited mainly from the Meals on Wheels program. This is a multi-center study being conducted at Portland, Oregon and Detroit, Michigan.

​Web-enabled social interaction to delay cognitive decline among seniors with MCI: Phase I
This study, funded by the R01 AG056102, examines social interactions could improve cognitive functions among those with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). This is a multi-center study being conducted at Portland, Oregon and Detroit, Michigan.

Identification of Mild Cognitive Impairment using machine learning from language and behavior markers
The goal of this study, funded by the RF1AG072449 grant, is to discover language and behavior markers signaling early-stage MCI, as well as integrate the markers into effective machine-learning models for the detection of MCI. The Principal Investigators are Drs. Dodge, Zhou, and Wang (multiple PIs).

White matter hyperintensity-associated astrocytopathy in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular cognitive impairment: A targeted histopathologic study using postmortem 7T MRI
The goal of this project, funded by the R01AG056712 grant, is to investigate how cerebrovascular disease, manifested as white matter hyperintensities, is associated with changes in astroglial phenotypes and that these changes contribute both to white matter injury and to regionally associated AD pathologies. The Principal Investigators of this project are Dr. Silbert and Dr. Woltjer.

ARMADA: Advancing reliable measurement in Alzheimer's disease and cognitive aging
This project, funded by the U2C AG057441 grant, validates and expands the NIH Toolbox for Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function (NIHTB) for use in studies of cognitive aging beginning with normal cognition through progression into mild cognitive impairment and into early stages of Alzheimer's dementia. Aims of the project include: 1. Validate English and Spanish versions of an expanded NIHTB (the NIHTB+) in existing, well-characterized, ethnically and racially diverse samples of adults ages 65-85 representing the trajectory of cognitive aging and in cognitively normal individuals 86+ years of age. 2. Expand the NIHTB by adding innovative instruments to assess neurological functions associated with cognitive aging; and 3. Facilitate use of the NIHTB+ in aging research by ensuring it is a readily available resource with robust user support. Principal Investigators are Drs. Gershon and Weintraub at Northwestern University.

Home and community-based service use, health outcomes, and health care costs for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia
The major goal of this project, funded by the R01AG069782 grant, is to assess elements of state Medicaid policies associated with an increase in home and community-based service use by people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia as well as to assess when home and community-based service is appropriately used to keep them safe in the community. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Hyunjee Kim.


Recent publications:

PI publications: