Daniel Gustavson, PhD
Research Assistant Professor, Division of Genetic Medicine
Daniel Gustavson is a cognitive psychologist with a specialty in behavioral genetics. His research seeks to understand the genetic underpinnings of higher-order cognitive abilities, their associations with mental health, and their changes across the lifespan. His interests in cognition focus on executive functions, cognitive-control abilities that regulate thought and action. He has shown that poor executive functions are linked with a range of mental health issues (anxiety, depression symptoms), self-regulatory problems (procrastination, impulsivity, goal-management), and Alzheimer’s disease-related risk factors. Using twin studies and other genetic methods (genome-wide association studies, genomic structure equation modeling), he examines the genetic and environmental architecture of these associations in adolescents, young adults, and middle-aged adults. Dr. Gustavson received his PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2016 with graduate certificates in “Behavioral Genetics” and “Quantitative Methods for the Behavioral Sciences.” His work focused on studies of executive function, mental health, and self-regulation using data from the Colorado Longitudinal Twin Study. He was also trained as an experimental psychologist. From 2016 to 2019, he served as a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. There, he applied models of executive function and verbal fluency to studies of cognitive aging using data from the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Cognitive Aging. He has been at Vanderbilt University Medical Center since July 2019. His most recent projects examine the genetic underpinnings of musical ability and how these skills are related to cognition and mental health.