Integrative Science for Healthy Aging

Healthy Aging

The Integrative Science for Healthy Aging Program, led by Dr. Julia Sheffler, broadly involves the development and assessment of behavioral interventions for physical, mental, and neurocognitive health in older adults. We are especially interested in the interaction of biological, psychological, and social lifespan processes that influence functioning in older age. Through understanding these processes, this program aims to develop psychological and behavioral approaches to improve adherence and the long-term success of health behavior interventions for older adults.

Current projects in our program span the translational spectrum, from basic social science approaches led by undergraduate researchers examining how childhood adversity influences health and emotion regulation across the lifespan, to clinical trials examining a nutrition adherence intervention for older adults at-risk for Alzheimer’s disease. 

If you would like to get involved in research as a participant or if you are interested in joining our program as a student or volunteer, please contact Dr. Julia Sheffler at or call 850.644.4209.

Ongoing Projects

A Scalable Mediterranean-Ketogenic Nutrition Intervention to Improve Gut and Brain Health in Underserved Rural Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment 

Florida Department of Health (FDOH), Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer's Disease Research Program  
Julia Sheffler, PhD: Principal Investigator

Using a Novel, Digital, and Multimodal Platform to Optimize Waist Circumference, Body Composition, and Cardiovascular Health in Endometrial Cancer Survivors 

Lev-Max Health Program, Alberta Innovates 
Julia Sheffler, PhD: Co-Investigator 

Randomized Clinical Trial of a Brief, Anxiety Intervention for Mild Cognitive Impairment/Mild Alzheimer's Disease and their Care Providers

NIH, R01 
Julia Sheffler, PhD: Co-Investigator 

Completed Projects

Feasibility and Acceptability of an MI-CBT Ketogenic Adherence Program for Pain in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment 

University of Florida Subaward 
Julia Sheffler, PhD: Principal Investigator

Pragmatic Trial of an MI-CBT Adherence Program for Lifestyle Interventions in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)  

University of Florida, KL2 
Julia Sheffler, PhD: Principal Investigator

Combatting Social Isolation in Older Adults: Randomized Clinical Trial Evaluating the Acceptability and Efficacy of a Brief, Technology Delivered Intervention 

RRF, Foundation on Aging 
Julia Sheffler, PhD: Co-Investigator

Self-Administered Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation for Pain in Older Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis: A Phase II Randomized Sham-Controlled Trial  

National Institute of Nursing Research, R15
Julia Sheffler, PhD: Co-Investigator

Ketogenic Nutrition Adherence Program: A Pilot Study 

Investigators: Julia Sheffler, Ph.D., Sylvie Naar, Ph.D., Zhe He, Ph.D., Dimitris Kiosses, Ph.D., & Paul Katz, M.D. 

Specific Aims:

  • Aim 1: Assess feasibility and acceptability of all protocol components of a pilot pragmatic trial testing a 6-week telehealth KNA program compared to a KN information-only group for diverse older adults with MCI in a community senior health clinic to prepare for a full-scale trial. Specifically, we will examine the feasibility of the recruitment, retention, assessment, electronic health record (EHR) downloads, and intervention delivery methods an a clinical setting.
  • Aim 2: Assess signal of initial effect of the KNA program on important clinical outcomes and adherence relative to a KN information-only condition. These data will provide important information about the clinical effects of the programs and feasibility of the proposed study components for a larger PCT.

Resilience through adversity: Examining the long-term impacts of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and adult stress on health and well-being across the life-span 

Julia Sheffler, PhD: Principal Investigator

Specific Aims: Our program involves multiple ongoing projects that examine the long-term adverse impacts of ACEs on health and psychological functioning across the life course. For example, Celina Meyer, a research assistant in the lab was recently awarded the IDEA Grant for her project examining the interactions between early household chaos and ACEs on later emotional and cognitive regulation strategies. We are interested in understanding ACEs as a form of significant early stress, which disrupts key areas of neuro-immune and emotional development leading to lasting changes in psychosocial functioning. Our goal is to identify resiliency factors that may be useful for interventions in adults and older adults exposed to ACEs.

Proof-of-Concept: Examining the effects of a nutrition adherence program on risks for Alzheimer's disease

Investigators: Julia Sheffler, Ph.D., Sylvie Naar, Ph.D., Bahram Arjmandi, Ph.D., Cynthia Vied, Ph.D., Greg Hajcak, Ph.D., Jamie Quinn, Ph.D., & Neda Akhavan, Ph.D.

Project Overview: The project provided the proof of concept phase for developing a ketogenic nutrition adherence program that incorporates motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy strategies to promote long-term change. We assessed the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effects of implementing this program for older adults at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, based on self-report and neuropsychological testing. We used a team science approach to develop and refine the intervention for future clinical trials. We also incorporated comprehensive assessment techniques, including neuropsychological testing, EEG, genetic data, and physical health assessments to measure the effects of ketogenic nutrition on all aspects of functioning.

Funding Source: Supported by a Florida State University Team Science for Translational Research Seed Grant, funded by the FSU Office of Research (UL1TR001427) and Institute for Successful Longevity Planning Grant

Bolstering resilience by increasing emotional regulation in later life: Examining the neural correlates of emotion regulation and resiliency among older adults

Investigators: Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, Ph.D., Dawn Carr, Ph.D., Greg Hajcak, Ph.D., Julia Sheffler, Ph.D., Sylvie Naar, Ph.D., & Miles Taylor, Ph.D.

Project Overview: 1) Examine the relationship between emotion regulation and resilience by conducting a survey of older adults; 2) use electroencephalogram (EEG) to examine the neural correlates of emotion regulation in a subset of these older adults, and determine if these neural correlates can differentiate participants who report being low, moderate, and high on self-report measures of emotion regulation and resilience; 3) test an intervention program designed to enhance emotion regulation in older adults; 4) determine if emotion regulation skill training leads to an increase in resiliency in older adults (and for which older adults the intervention is most successful); and 5) determine if self-reported changes in emotion regulation skills (after intervention) are reflected in the EEG measures of the neural correlates of emotion regulation.

Funding Source: FSU Institute for Successful Longevity Planning Grant

Student Projects