Bachelor of Science, Psychology; Masters of Science, Experimental Psychology; PhD, Cognitive Science
Katya is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) within the Discipline of Psychiatry and Mental Health. Katya is also the former Coordinator of CHeBA's Sydney Memory and Ageing Study. The Memory and Ageing Study (MAS), is one of Australia’s largest and longest running studies of ageing and cognitive health. MAS began in 2005 with the aims of investigating rates and predictors of healthy cognitive ageing, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia in older Australians. Over the last 14 years, MAS has collected biomarker, genetic/epigenomic, neuroimaging, cognitive, proteomics, lipidomics, health, and lifestyle data to determine what factors are associated with cognitively normal ageing and progression to MCI or dementia. To date, MAS has contributed data to over 190 papers published in high impact journals and scores of successful Honours, Masters, and PhD projects
Katya's own research focuses on modifiable lifestyle factors associated with increased dementia risk, the subjective experience of cognitive decline and functional ability, the unique impact of COVID-19 and isolation on older adults, and strategies for combatting negative stereotypes of ageing in younger and older adults. Through her research, Katya aims to improve the health and mental health of older adults via numerous pathways. She uses a range of methods, including epidemiological investigation of large datasets, experimental trials, and creation of new computerised and app-based tools to capture physical and mental health in older adults. Though an early career researcher, Katya has published 22 papers in high impact journals, presented her research at 24 national and international conferences, is an Editor and Reviewer for 21 journals, is a named investigator on grants totalling over $4.6M.
Click here to read Dr Katya Numbers' ‘Meet Our Researcher’ interview
I am a Chief Investigator on six successful grants totalling $6,633,314, including two successful NHMRC Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grants and an NHMRC Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies (CTCS) grant.
1. Dementia prevention is the primary focus of my research and a national health care priority in Australia. Although dementia is the second leading cause of death in older Australians, it is estimated that 40% of all dementia cases are preventable through the modification of lifestyle risk factors such as social isolation, diet, and exercise. This is where my research comes in. Specifically, I investigate the mediating role of depression and anxiety on risk factors associated with dementia. Previously it was assumed that the presence of increased neuropsychiatric symptoms in people with dementia was a result of the disease (e.g., increasing loss of autonomy), but it is now known that chronic psychiatric symptoms can play a causative role in the development of dementia pathology; for instance, changes in cortisol associated with depression and anxiety also impacts grey matter brain volumes implicated in many dementias (i.e., hippocampus and prefrontal cortex).
2. My second area of research focus is the intersection between older adults’ subjective experiences of cognitive decline and functional ability and their risk for future dementia. This is an especially important area of ageing and dementia research given subjective cognitive complaints (SCCs) are now considered a very early pre-clinical stage of dementia, meaning SCCs are an important diagnostic tool to facilitate early intervention programs. My recent research examines temporal changes in participant and informant SCCs using latent growth curve analyses to model linear changes in SCC reporting over time. I also examine the relationship between self-report and informant-report (someone who knows the person well) SCCs and utility in predicting dementia.
3. My research also promotes healthy ageing by supporting individuals with dementia. Unfortunately, all dementias are progressive. However, this should not deny personhood or a maximised quality of life people living with dementia or their care partners. This has become especially relevant in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing periods of prolonged lockdowns, which have disproportionately impacted older adults worldwide. I have been heavily involved in research looking at the impact of COVID-19 and social isolation on older adults with and without with dementia. I developed and administered a CHeBA COVID-19 questionnaire to over 400 participants (aged 65 – 103) in 2020, and have collected administered the same questionnaire to older German participants to examine cohort and geographic impacts of the pandemic. I am also an Investigator on a 3-country grant that is harmonising data across Australia, the UK, and the US, to determine factors associated with post-COVID wellbeing in older adults on several dimensions.
4. Finally, I am very actively involved in research and groups that aim to challenge negative stereotypes about ageing and dementia. A compelling body of data has emerged showing negative attitudes towards ageing pose a significant risk to physical health and psychological well-being in later life. For example, older adults with worse attitudes about ageing have poorer physical, cognitive, and mental health, and studies show that individuals who endorse negative ageing attitudes in midlife (~45 years) are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s disease pathology nearly 20 years later (~65 years). Not only do negative ageing attitudes predict worse health outcomes in older adults, but ageism promotes other forms of discrimination including social exclusion from important roles and relationships, which further fosters feelings of isolation and loneliness. This is important because increased isolation and loneliness are related to increased neuropsychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety, which in turn can result in cortisol related brain pathology.
My Research Supervision
ILP and Honours students (3 current, 6 successful); 1 PhD
I am a current supervisor to 3 Honours students and have previously supervised 6 Honours students (5=HD; 1=D). The majority of my students have, or will, submit first author publications in high-impact journals.
I am also an invited Lecturer and Tutor for Beginnings, Growth and Development B in the Faculty of Medicine.
During my PhD at Macquarie University, I was a head Tutor for the Department of Cognitive Science.
Before moving to Australia to commence my PhD, I was a Lecturer for the Department of Psychology (taught: Social Psychology; History and Systems of Psychology; Judgment and Decision Making) at Montana State University for 4 semesters.