Research PALS

Welcome to Research PALS!

Research Participation Across the Life Span (PALS) is a database project that connects people interested in participating in research activities at Penn State.

Researchers at Penn State are engage in a number of projects related to healthy aging including the study of memory, language skills, stroke rehabilitation, exercise, motor control, brain imaging and nutrition. Research volunteers play a vital role in helping to advance our research and without the contributions of people like you, research could not progress.Research PALS is a database project that helps to connect community members interested in volunteering for research with activities at Penn State. The database stores names, birthdates, addresses, and phone numbers of participating individuals. This information is kept confidential and shared only with PSU researchers who are conducting studies approved by the University’s Office for Research Protections. When new research opportunities arise, a researcher will contact you to explain the current study and ask if you are interested in participating.

Participation is always optional. You may remain in the database as long as you wish and you can ask to be removed at any time.

PALS Researchers

Nancy Dennis
Dr. Nancy Dennis directs the Cognitive Aging and Neuroimaging Lab (CANLab) in the Psychology Department at Penn State. Her work focuses on understanding how memory changes in aging and ways we can ameliorate memory decline in older adults. She uses brain imaging technology to identify neural markers of memory processes with an emphasis on understanding how to maintain memory performance across the lifespan.
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Michele Diaz
Dr. Michele Diaz directs the Language and Aging Lab in the Psychology Department at Penn State. Her broad goal is to understand the neural and behavioral factors that contribute to word retrieval failures. Language is a critical communicative and social aspect of daily life. However, difficulties in language production (i.e., finding words and recalling names) are among the most common and frustrating aspects of aging. Understanding the factors that contribute to healthy aging may enable older adults to increase their agency, independence, and quality of life.
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Kristina Neely
Dr. Kristina Neely directs the Motor Control, Cognition, and Neuroimaging (MCCN) Lab in the Kinesiology Department at Penn State. The MCCN lab studies how the brain prepares and controls goal-directed action in adults and how this process may change with aging. She investigates how brain structure and function, cognitive ability, and personality traits influence the control of reaching and grasping movements.
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Nicole Etter
Dr. Nicole Etter directs the Orofacial Physiology and Perceptual Analysis Lab (OPPAL) in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at Penn State. Her main goal is to assess sensation and motor control for speech production. She is interested in learning how our ability to control the muscles of the face to produce clear speech may change as we get older. She compares how hearing and touch sensation of the lips and tongue are important for maintaining the fine motor control we use to speak. She is also interested in learning what happens after injury or disorders like stroke or Parkinson’s disease.
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Chaleece Sandberg
Dr. Chaleece Sandberg directs the Adult Neuroplasticity Lab in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at Penn State. Her work focuses on the recovery of language after brain injury, such as stroke, and how factors that contribute to healthy aging may affect this recovery process. She uses brain imaging technology to explore changes in language networks in both aging and recovery after stroke, with the goal of improving language therapy.
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Lesley Ross
Dr. Lesley Ross directs the Study of Healthy Aging & Applied Research Programs (SHAARP) Lab in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at Penn State. Her overall goal is to improve the everyday functioning, health, independence and wellbeing of older adults. She investigates cognitive aging, interventions to maintain healthy aging, human factors, and applied everyday outcomes such as mobility and driving.
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Coming Soon!

For Investigators

For questions regarding registration and use of the PALS database, please contact Nancy Dennis,, ext. 51712

For questions regarding community recruitment events, please contact Chaleece Sandberg,, ext. 32006


While Penn State is a world leader in research, our rural location makes it difficult to find people to become involved in research. This database was developed to assist researchers in finding participants by providing a central list of local adults in the appropriate age bracket. This will save time and money and help make research easier on both the researcher and the participant.

All the information in the Research PALS database is confidential. Only researchers who have received approval from the Office of Regulatory Compliance will be provided with information from the database. Your information will not be sold or given to any other organization.

Unless you ask to be removed you will be listed in the database.

To change information in the database, give us a call at 814-865-0878.

Some research programs offer money to participants, but others do not. When a researcher calls you to explain the purpose of the study they will also outline the time commitment and compensation costs. As always, it is your choice whether to participate.

In addition to monetary compensation, other forms of compensation may include physical and developmental evaluation. Additionally, many find that participating in research is interesting as it gives insight, and provides a sense of satisfaction for having contributed to important advances in scientific knowledge.

The time involved varies greatly depending on the individual research project. One study may involve a single meeting lasting less than one hour to several meetings over several years. The time commitment is always clearly outlined before you agree to participate and your participation is always voluntary. You may stop at any time (even part way through a study if you are no longer interested in continuing).

When you will be contacted depends on which research projects are currently recruiting volunteers. Depending on the ages and criteria of adults being recruited, it could be a week after you sign up to several months (or possibly never). We try very hard not to overburden you by calling too often. When you are contacted, you will be given the option to not be called for a period of time of your choosing.

No, you are not committed to participate in any research and may say no to any particular research request. Your willingness to be in the database means that you are available to be asked. Which research projects and how many you agree to participate in are entirely up to you.

No! All research projects are reviewed by the University Institutional Review Board to make certain that they meet legal and ethical guidelines, which include the safety and well-being of research volunteers.

We hope that you talk to your friends and neighbors about the Research PALS project and encourage them to sign up. However, only those particular individuals can sign themselves up.

Contact PALS

Phone: 814-867-3653

Nancy Dennis
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Phone: (814) 865-1712
Fax: (814) 863-7002
Office: 450 Moore Bldg
Chaleece Sandberg
Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Phone: (814) 863-2007
Fax: (814) 863-3759
Office: 401D Ford Building