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November 21, 2008

ULM graduate student’s thesis accepted by national organization

The Gerontological Society of America will take the rare step of accepting a graduate student’s master thesis at their national conference this weekend.

Courtney Bordelon of Ball will present her interdisciplinary research examining whether higher cognitive abilities are necessary to make healthy lifestyle choices, knowing there is substantial evidence that such cognition declines with age.

Researchers call these higher cognitive abilities “executive function,” which can be significantly improved through proper nutrition and higher levels of physical fitness.

Courtney also looked at whether a subject’s feelings of control and confidence, known as “self efficacy,” is important in behavioral change and whether it interacts with executive function.

Research indicates that an elderly person’s ability to implement knowledge into practical steps that sustain behavioral change depends on the strength of that person’s cognitive abilities.

“There are a host of implications for the elderly,” Dr. William McCown, professor of psychology, explained.

“Knowledge about unhealthy behavior is not enough. Nor is enthusiasm about doing the right thing. Courtney's research suggests that in order for elderly people to maximize their chances of maintaining healthy habits, they need more specific goals with more immediate feedback,” he said.

Courtney's research impressed ULM professors because it was interdisciplinary – it brought psychology and gerontology faculty together. But, “It was also a heck of a lot of work!” acknowledged Dr. McCown.

According to figures provided by Dr. Chris Johnson, who also serves on Courtney’s thesis committee, GSA only accepts about 25 percent of research submissions for the conference.

This weekend’s meeting is the country's largest interdisciplinary conference in the field of aging. An estimated 3,500 professionals and aging authorities, as well as numerous media outlets will attend the more than 500 scientific sessions offered there.

For information on ULM’s online M.A. in Gerontology call Dr. Iftekhar Amin at 318-342-1441 or or visit

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