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2007 Grant - Silverman
A Longitudinal Study of Successful Cognitive Aging Phenotypes in Costa Rica
Jeremy M. Silverman, Ph.D.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
New York, New York
2007 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Research has shown that some people may carry genes that confer protection against Alzheimer's disease or even a more general age-related decline in memory and thinking skills. One strategy for examining this issue and identifying protective genes is to conduct investigations in populations that have remained genetically isolated from other groups for an extended time. This approach provides a research setting with less irrelevant or confusing genetic information.
In an earlier study sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, Jeremy M. Silverman, Ph.D., and colleagues recruited research participants in Costa Rica's Central Valley. The participants were divided into three groups: (1) individuals in their 90s who have no dementia symptoms and have children who are over the age of 60, (2) people in their 90s who have dementia and children over 60, and (3) people in their 60s and 70s who do not have dementia and whose parents did not live into their 90s.
All participants received memory and thinking skill assessments. Results found that the offspring of nondemented people in their 90s had better cognitive function than did the offspring in the other two groups. The research team also collected blood samples from all family members to identify genetic factors already associated with Alzheimer's disease and to facilitate later genetic studies for protective factors.
For this proposed grant, Dr. Silverman and colleagues will undertake a three-year follow-up assessment of their Costa Rican population. They seek to determine whether the offspring of nondemented people in their 90s continue to show lower levels of cognitive decline than the other two groups. Results from this project should provide valuable long-term data that tracks changes in cognitive skills and the onset of dementia. The results should also identify hereditary characteristics that make people more likely to retain cognitive abilities at an advanced age.