News Release

Major study explores how education shapes risk of dementia

Credit: University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota is playing a key role in an upcoming study of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRD) that will re-contact more than 14,000 Americans from the high school class of 1972 to study how education affects ADRD risk and racial/ethnic differences in that risk. The $50.3 million grant brings together experts from eight universities, including sociologist John Robert Warren from the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Social Research and Data Innovation.

“The opportunity to reconnect with and study the outcomes from these adults who have lived robust and diverse lives for 50 years offers a wealth of information rarely found,” said Warren. “Research shows that people with more and better quality education are less likely to have early Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, but we don’t know why or how education protects people later in life. The insights provided by this study will help us identify such factors and, hopefully, lead to improved life outcomes.”

The project was designed and implemented by an interdisciplinary team of neurologists, neuropsychologists, sociologists, education scientists, survey methodologists, biostatisticians and neuroimaging experts. As a principal investigator of the study, Warren and his colleagues will gather extensive survey, biomarker, cognitive and neurological data from the surviving members of the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972—a nationally representative and highly diverse sample of Americans first interviewed as high school seniors.

Researchers will collect the data through in-home interviews, health and wellness exams, administrative records and brain scans to better understand how education and other early life factors impact the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The goal is to inform the development of effective interventions that can be implemented across the life course to prevent dementia and reduce racial/ethnic inequities in dementia risk.

Other principal investigators include Drs. Chandra Muller (University of Texas at Austin), Eric Grodsky (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Jennifer Manly and Adam Brickman (Columbia University).

This study is supported by the National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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