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Research

Ashley Curtis

CASH LAB

About Us

The Cognition, Aging, Sleep, and Health Lab (CASH Lab) studies the bidirectional relationship between sleep and cognition in healthy and pathological aging populations. The CASH Lab is specifically interested in evaluating cognitive interventions for improving sleep, cognition, and associated functions. 

The CASH Lab also examines risk (e.g., pain, medication) and demographic factors (e.g., sex) that alter sleep and cognitive profiles across the lifespan. The lab uses behavioral (e.g., cognitive testing, daytime functioning assessment, sleep) and physiological (e.g., polysomnography, heart rate variability, neuroimaging) methods to answer novel research questions in these areas.

Staff Recruitment 

Undergraduate Students: If you would like to join our lab, send a cover letter outlining experience and research interests as well as a CV to Dr. Curtis at ashleycurtis@usf.edu. Please note that undergraduate students are expected to volunteer 4-6 hours per week in the lab. 

For all other inquiries please email Dr. Curtis at ashleycurtis@usf.edu.

CASH Lab Team

Ashely Curtis

Ashley F. Curtis, PhD -- Lab Director/Principal Investigator

Ashley Curtis, PhD, received her doctoral degree in Psychology (with a specialization in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Sciences) from York University in Toronto, ON, Canada. Her dissertation work focused on developing and evaluating strategies to improve cognition in younger and older adults. She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, ON, where she studied sex differences in risk factors and outcomes of neurodegenerative disorders. She also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship with Christina McCrae, PhD, in the Mizzou Sleep Research Lab in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri. Dr. Curtis was also previously an Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri (Departments of Psychiatry and Psychological Sciences).

Dr. Curtis is currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Director/Principal Investigator of the Cognition, Aging, Sleep, and Health (CASH) Lab. Dr. Curtis’s research focuses on the bidirectional associations between sleep and cognition in healthy and pathological aging populations. Current research investigates how cognitive training paradigms impact sleep and cognition. She is also interested in sex differences and other risk factors (e.g., pain, medication) that alter sleep and cognitive profiles across the lifespan. She employs clinical, behavioral, and neuroscience methods to examine novel research questions in these areas. 

Costa

Amy N. Costa, MA -- Graduate Research Assistant

 

Amy is a doctoral student in the Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology program. Amy holds an M.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Cognition and Neuroscience from the University of Missouri. Her research interests involve sleep and cognition in older adulthood, such as the role sleep has in pathological aging. She also has a specific interest in better understanding the relationship between subjective experiences of cognition (i.e., metacognitive awareness) and objective cognitive functioning, and how sleep may impact this relationship.

S. Rodriguez

Susan Rodriguez, BA-- Graduate Research Assistant

Susan Rodriguez is a doctoral student in the Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social (CNS) Psychology program. Susan earned a B.A. in Psychology from USF in Spring 2021. She is broadly interested in the impact of social and psychological factors on physiological responses to stress, and how these varying responses may impact physical and mental health.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

  • Stormy Burton Naomi “Storm” Burton
    Naomi “Storm” Burton
    Naomi Burton is a sophomore in Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida.
  • Ashlynn Gilbert Ashlynn Gilbert
    Ashlynn Gilbert
    Ashlynn is majoring in Biomedical Sciences & minoring in Psychology.
  • Alvina Nguyen Alvina Nguyen
    Alvina Nguyen
    She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and plans to attend medical school.
  • Celestine Sebastian
    Celestine Sebastian
    Celestine is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Psychology and Public Health.
  • Middle-age Investigation of Variability in Sleep and Pain: Understanding Their Association with Cognitive Change Across Menopause (MID-VISTA)

    Funding provided by the Judy Genshaft Women’s Health Collaborative Seed Grant Fund
    This study critically advances our work by examining how menopause impacts relationships among modifiable Alzheimer’s disease risk factors (sleep and pain) and cognition in middle-aged women. We are recruiting middle-aged women aged 44-64 with insomnia and memory complaints to participate in a fully remote study. Women will complete computer assessments at baseline, 3-month follow-up and 6-month follow-up. Participants will be compensated for their participation. If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact us at CON-cashlab@usf.edu.

    Novel Adaptive Cognitive Training in Autistic Adults with Co-Occurring Insomnia (COGMUSE-AUT)

    Funding provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation
    This study aims to address challenges faced by autistic adults in terms of cognition and adaptive functioning, exacerbated by the high prevalence of insomnia (~80%) among this population. Through a mixed-methods approach, we will iteratively optimize an adaptive cognitive training program for autistic adults with insomnia (COGMUSE-AUT; Stage-1). We will then pilot test (Stage-2) COGMUSE-AUT in a sample of autistic adults with co-occurring insomnia, assessing its impact on cognition, sleep, and daytime functioning outcomes.  We are recruiting autistic adults aged 18+ and their guardians.  Participants will be compensated for their participation.  If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact us at CON-cashlab@usf.edu.

    Metacognitive Awareness of Objective Cognition in Older Adults: Does Insomnia Matter? (MAIN-OA)

    Funding provided by the Sleep Research Society Foundation
    We are investigating the impact on sleep on subjective and objective measures of cognitive functioning in older adults with and without insomnia (ages 60+). We will be recruiting participants in the Tampa area who will come to our lab at the University of South Florida to complete questionnaires and computer tasks. We will also have participants complete at home measurements of sleep. Participants will be compensated for completing the study. If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact us at CON-cashlab@usf.edu

    COGMUSE: A Pilot Study Evaluating a Combined Cognitive Training and Music Intervention in Older Adults

    Funded provided by the University of South Florida
    We are investigating a novel computerized cognitive training program combined with music listening in older adults with insomnia. We will evaluate participant feedback on the intervention and test its impact on several key outcomes including cognition and sleep.  

    Impact of Sleep on Cueing Attention in Older Adults (CUES)

    Funding provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation
    We are investigating the impact of different types of cues (visual and auditory cues) on attention functioning in older adults with and without insomnia (ages 60+). We will be recruiting participants in the Columbia area who will come to our lab at the University of Missouri to complete questionnaires and computer tasks. We will also have participants complete at home measurements of your sleep.Participants will be compensated for completing the study. If you are interested in participating in the CUES study, please contact us at cashlab@health.missouri.edu.

  • Cognitive Training in Mild Cognitive Impairment (TRAIN-MCI)

    ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04899089
    Funded provided by the University of Missouri School of Medicine TRIUMPH Initiative award mechanism 
    We are investigating the effects of computerized cognitive training games on sleep, mental abilities and mood in older adults with mild cognitive impairment and insomnia. We are currently recruiting adults aged 60+ with mild cognitive impairment and trouble sleeping. If eligible, participants will undergo an 8 week at home training program consisting of several weekly sessions of computerized training. The entire study will be completed remotely (online and teleconferencing). Participants will be provided with compensation for completing the study.

    Computerized Cognitive Training in Middle-Aged Adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Pilot Study (COGMA)

    ClinicalTrials.gov ID: NCT04421690
    Funded provided by the University of Missouri 

    We investigated the effects of computerized cognitive training games on anxiety, sleep, and cognition (mental abilities) in middle-aged adults with high levels of anxiety or have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Eligible participants an 8 week at home training program consisting of several weekly sessions of computerized training. The entire study was completed online/remotely.  Data collection is now complete, and analyses are manuscripts are currently in preparation.

    Playing brain games for better sleep and cognition in older adults (PLAY)

    Clinical Trials identifier: NCT04282642
    Funding provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation 

    We investigated the effects of computerized games on sleep and cognition in older adults aged 60+ years with insomnia. Eligible participants completed a six week at home training program consisting of several weekly sessions of computerized game playing. Data collection is now complete, and analyses are manuscripts are currently in preparation.

    Daily patterns of sleep and cognitive functioning of adults with and without insomnia (DAYPAT)

    Funded provided by the University of Missouri
    We investigated the associations between mood, affect, vocational, and physical activity factors with daily sleep and cognition patterns in young adults (University of Missouri students ages 18-30) and older adults (ages 60+). We are also examining the influence of various demographic factors (such as age and sex) on these relationships.

    Cognition, Anxiety, and Sleep in Middle-aged and Older adults During COVID-19 (CAGES)

    Funding provided by the University of Missouri
    We are investigating the associations between COVID-19 related psychological factors with sleep, cognition, and other behaviors in middle-aged and older adults in the United States. We are also exploring the impact of demographic factors (such as age and sex) on these relationships. Participants completed an online survey and several online tasks that measured objective cognition/mental abilities. Data collection is now complete. Analyses and manuscripts from the CAGES project are currently in preparation.

  • Sex differences in sleep and cognition: A Meta-Analysis

    We will be conducting a meta-analysis investigating the current evidence regarding sex-specific associations between sleep and cognition in older adults. Results will inform knowledge regarding potential sex-specific trajectories of cognitive change or risk of cognitive impairment as a result of poor sleep.

    Research on insomnia, cognition, and sex differences in older adults (RISE-OA)

    We will be investigating differences in cognitive performance between men and women with insomnia.

  • 2023

    • Dr. Curtis received a new grant from the Judy Genshaft Women’s Health Collaborative Seed Grant Fund.  This project “MID-VISTA” will be investigating how sleep, pain, and cognitive abilities are related in pre-menopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal women. Congratulations to Dr. Curtis and USF team: Dr. Christina McCrae, Dr. Melanie Stearns, Dr. Fareeha Hussaini, Dr. Laura Szalacha, Dr. Ellen Daley and Dr. Amy Brown!

    • The CASH Lab attended their first Gerontological Society of America conference in Tampa, FL in November 2023.  Congratulations to Dr. Curtis for chairing the “Out of the Medicine Cabinet:  Nonpharmacological Approaches to Improve Cognition and Associated Functions”, for her symposium talks titled “Cognitive Training Approaches to Improve Cognition and Associated Functions in Mid to Late Life”, and “Interactive Role of Sleep and Arousal on Cognition and Brain Structure in Chronic Pain Patients”, and for her poster titled, “Mixed-Methods Evaluation of a Novel Multimodal Cognitive Training ‘COGMUSE’ in Older Adults with Insomnia”. Congratulations to Amy Costa for her paper talk, “Anxiety and Memory Complaints in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: The Moderating Role of Physical Activity”!

    • Congratulations to Dr. Curtis for presenting at a symposium at the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine conference. She presented on “Sex-specific Patterns of Alcohol Use and Objective Sleep in Older Adults.”

    • New CASH Lab and McCrae Sleep Research Lab collaboration!  Check out our new paper published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine “Preliminary investigation of the interactive role of physiological arousal and insomnia complaints in gray matter volume alterations in chronic widespread pain”. Read it here: https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/abs/10.5664/jcsm.10860

    • Welcome to the CASH lab’s newest undergraduate research assistants: Alvina Nguyen, Ashlynn Gilbert, Celestine Sebastian, Indu Parameswaran, and Naomi “Storm” Burton.  We are thrilled to have these bright undergraduate students working in the CASH lab!

    • Congratulations to graduate research assistant Amy Costa for being invited to present at the Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology Colloquia! She presented her work titled, “Metacognitive Awareness of Cognitive Functioning in Older Adults: Does Sleep Matter?”

    • New Manuscript from the CASH Lab by lead author Dr. Curtis just published! This study, “Sex as a moderator of the sleep and cognition relationship in middle-aged and older adults: A Preliminary Investigation” was published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine! Read it here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15402002.2023.217729

    • Dr. Curtis gave a talk for APA Division 20 Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Special Interest Group in June, 2023.  Her talk was titled, “Cognition in Aging Adults: Sex-Specific Patterns of Associations with Modifiable Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

    • Congratulations to graduate research assistant Maddie Musich for successfully defending her masters thesis at the University of Missouri, “Subjective-Objective Sleep Discrepancy in Older Adults with and without Insomnia: Examining the Role of Cognition and Arousal”!

    • Congratulations to graduate research assistant Amy Costa and summer medical student Lauren Nowakowski for each receiving the Sleep Research Society Trainee Merit Award for SLEEP 2023!

    • The CASH Lab was well represented at the SLEEP 2023 conference in Indianapolis, IN! Congratulations to graduate research assistant Amy Costa for her talk and poster, “Does the Early Bird Get the Worm? Association of Waketime Variability and Metacognition in College Students”, Dr. Curtis on her poster, “Sound vs. Sight: A Modality-Specific Preliminary Investigation of Sleep-Related Attentional Bias in Older Adults”, graduate research assistant Maddie Musich on her poster, “Subjective and Objective Sleep in Older Adults: Does Cognitive Functioning Matter?”, and summer medical student Lauren Nowakowski for her talk and poster, “Power Nap or Cognitive Trap? Role of Age in Associations Between Napping and Cognition”.

    • New CASH Lab manuscript published in the Journal of Women’s Health! Congratulations to first author Madison Musich on the publication assessing sex-specific associations between alcohol use, hypertension, and cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults. Check it out here: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jwh.2022.0462
    • Congratulations to CASH Lab graduate student Amy Costa for being selected as the Distinguished Masters Thesis Award recipient at the University of Missouri for her thesis exploring the moderating impact of sleep on subjective and objective cognitive function. Read the publication here: https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/abs/10.5664/jcsm.10070
    • Dr. Curtis participated in the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine Virtual Journal Club panel today alongside Drs. Michelle Dreup and Alaina Tiani.  Great discussion on Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation adherence and efficacy in veterans with comorbid insomnia and sleep apnea.
    • Congratulations to graduate research assistant Amy Costa for being invited to speak at the Missouri S&T Psychological Sciences Colloquium in March. Her presentation was titled ‘Paradoxical relationship between subjective and objective cognition: The role of sleep.
    • New CASH Lab Manuscript published in Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine! Congratulations to first author Amy Costa for the recent publication evaluating how personality impacts the relationship between subjective and objective cognition. Check it out here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/23337214221146663
    • The CASH lab has moved to south to the University of South Florida College of Nursing!
  • (Selected; for full list, see CV
    *current or former mentee

    Musich*, M., Costa*, A. N., Salathe*, V., Miller, M. B., & Curtis, A. F. (in press). Sex-Specific contributions of alcohol and hypertension on everyday cognition in middle-aged and older adults. Journal of Women’s Health

    Curtis, A. F., Costa*, A. N., Musich*, M., Schmiedeler*, A., Jagannathan*, S., Connell*, M., Atkinson*, A., Miller, M. B., & McCrae, C. S. (in press). Sex as a moderator of the sleep and cognition relationship in middle-aged and older adults. Behavioral Sleep Medicine.  

    Costa*, A. N., Nowakowski*, L., McCrae, C. S., Cowan, N., & Curtis, A. F. (in press). Objective cognition and subjective memory in middle-aged and older adults: The role of personality. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine

    Costa*, A. N., Curtis, A. F., Musich*, M., Guandique, A. A., & McCrae, C. S. (2023). Self-reported cognition in older adults with insomnia: Associations with sleep and domain specific cognition. Journal of Sleep Research, 32, e13751. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.13751 

    Freeman*, L., Sparrow, E., Simenson, A., Miller, M. B., Costa*, A. N., Musich*, M., McCrae, C. S., & Curtis, A. F. (2022). Sex differences in associations between alcohol use and sleep in mid-to-late life. Sleep Medicine, 100, 298-303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2022.08.016 

    Costa*, A. N., McCrae, C. S., Cowan, N., & Curtis, A. F. (2022). Paradoxical Relationship Between Subjective and Objective Cognition: The Role of Sleep. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 18, 2009-2002. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.10070 

    Curtis, A. F., Schmiedeler*, A., Musich*, M., Connell*, M., Miller, M. B., & McCrae, C. S. (2022). COVID-19 related anxiety and cognition in middle-aged and older adults: Examining sex as a moderator.  Psychological Reports. https://doi.org/10.1177/00332941211064820 

    McCrae, C. S., Craggs, J. G., Curtis, A. F., Nair, N., Kay, D., Staud, R., Berry, R. B., & Robinson, M. E. (2022). Neural activation changes following cognitive behavioral therapy for patients with comorbid fibromyalgia and insomnia: A pilot study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 18, 203–215. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.9540 

    Curtis, A. F., Rodgers*, M., Miller, M. B., & McCrae, C. S. (2022). Impact of sex on COVID-19 media exposure, anxiety and perceived risk in middle-aged and older adults. Journal of Aging and Health, 34, 51-59.  https://doi.org/10.1177/08982643211025383  

    Curtis, A. F., Dzierzewski, J. M., Buman, M. P., Giacobbi, P. R., Roberts, B. L., Aiken-Morgan, A. T., Marsiske, M., & McCrae, C. S. (2021). Preliminary Investigation of Interactive Associations of Sleep and Pain with Cognition in Sedentary Middle-aged and Older Adults. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 17, 233–242. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.8856 

    Curtis, A. F., Roth, A. J., Sears, S. F., Conti, J. B., Berry, R. B., Dzierzewski, J. M., & McCrae, C. S. (2020). Associations between Pain, Objective Sleep Efficiency and Cognition in Patients with Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators. Sleep Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2020.03.029 

    McCrae, C. S., Curtis, A. F., Williams, J., Dautovich, N. D., McNamara, J. P. H., Stripling, A., Dzierzewski, J., Berry, R. B., McCoy, K., & Marsiske, M. (2019). Effects of brief behavioral treatment for insomnia on daily associations between self-reported sleep and objective cognition in older adults.  Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 18 (5), 577-588. https://doi.org/10.1080/15402002.2019.1632201 

    Curtis, A. F., Miller, M. B., Rathinakumar*, H., Robinson, M., Staud, R., Berry, R. B., & McCrae, C. S. (2019). Opioid use, pain intensity, age and sleep architecture in patients with fibromyalgia and insomnia. PAIN, 160:2086–2092. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001600 

    Curtis, A. F., Roth, A., Sears, S. F., Conti, J. B., Berry, R. B., Dzierzewski, J. M., Rathinakumar, H.*, & McCrae, C. S. (2018). Cognitive performance in patients with Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs): Associations with objective sleep duration, age and anxiety. Journal of Sleep Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12810 

    Curtis, A. F., Masellis, M., Camicioli, R., Davidson, H., & Tierney, M. C. (2018).  Cognitive profile of non-demented Parkinson’s disease: Meta-analysis of domain and sex- specific deficits. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.parkreldis.2018.10.014 

    Curtis, A. F., Williams, J. M., McCoy, K., & McCrae, C. S. (2018). Chronic pain, sleep, and cognition in older adults with insomnia: A daily multilevel analysis. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 14,1765–1772. http://dx.doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.7392 

    McCrae, C. S., Mundt, J. M., Curtis, A. F., Craggs, J. G., O’Shea, A. M., Staud, R., Berry, R. B., & Perlstein, W. M. (2018). Gray matter changes following cognitive behavioral therapy for patients with comorbid fibromyalgia and insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 14, 1595-1603. http://dx.doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.7344 

    Curtis, A. F., Miller, M. B., Boissoneault, J., Robinson, M., Staud, R., Berry, R. B., & McCrae, C. S. (2018). Discrepancies in sleep diary and actigraphy assessments in adults with fibromyalgia: Associations with opioid dose and age. Journal of Sleep Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12746 

    McCrae, C. S., Curtis, A. F., Williams, J., Dautovich, N. D., McNamara, J. P. H., Stripling, A., Dzierzewski, J., Berry, R. B., McCoy, K., Chan, W. S., & Marsiske, M. (2018). Efficacy of brief behavioral treatment for insomnia in older adults: Examination of sleep, mood, and cognitive outcomes. Sleep Medicine, 51, 153-166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2018.05.018 

    McLaughlin, P. M., Curtis, A. F., Comrie, J., Branscombe-Caird, L., & S. J. E., Murtha. (2018). The feasibility and potential impact of brain-training games on cognitive and emotional functioning in middle-aged adults. Games for Health Journal, 7, 67-74. https://doi.org/10.1089/g4h.2017.0032 

    Tierney, M. C., Curtis, A. F., Chertkow, H., & Rylett, R. J. (2017). Integrating sex and gender into neurodegeneration research: A six-component strategy. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research and Clinical Interventions, 3, 660-667. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trci.2017.10.006 

    Curtis, A. F., Turner, G. R., Park, N. W., & Murtha, S. J. E. (2017). Improving visual spatial working memory in younger and older adults: Effects of cross-modal cues. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, e-publish ahead of print: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13825585.2017.1397096 

    Curtis, A. F., Masellis, M., Hsiung, G-Y. R., Moineddin, R., Zhang*, K., Au, B., Millett*, G., Mackenzie, I., Rogaeva, E., & Tierney, M. C. (2017). Sex differences in the prevalence of genetic mutations in FTD and ALS: A meta-analysis. Neurology, 89, 1633-1642. http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000004494   

  • Ashley Curtis, PhD

    Assistant Professor
    Director, Cognition, Aging, Sleep and Health (CASH) Lab
    MDC Annex Bldg 1407B | ashleycurtis@usf.edu | 813-396-0254 (Teams)