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2020 Alzheimer's Association Clinical Scientist Fellowship to Promote Diversity (AACSF-D)

Biological and Emotional Mechanisms: Brain health in Latinos at mid life

Why is there an increased risk for dementia in the Hispanics/Latinos?

Erica Diminich, Ph.D.
State University of New York
Stony Brook, NY - United States


Based on the 2020 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures report, Hispanics/Latinos are about one and one-half times more likely to develop dementia as older whites. Studies suggest that in the Hispanic/Latino population they may either be diagnosed very late in the disease process or not receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementia. However, the reasons behind this increased risk in this population are still not clear. Dr. Erica Diminich suggests that Hispanics/Latinos may be at an increased risk for early cognitive decline owing to exposure to extreme stress and life events. To study this, Dr. Diminich’s team will examine the relationship between stress and risk associated with later life dementia in Hispanics/Latinos between the ages of 40-65.

Research Plan

The researchers will leverage another ongoing National Institute on Aging-funded study to identify risk factors for cognitive impairment in Hispanics/Latinos and recruit 100 Hispanic/Latino adults. The researchers will administer questionnaires to the participants at their homes to evaluate their stress levels and emotional function. The participants will also undertake a smartphone-based survey every 2 weeks to assess their day-to-day stress and its association with cognition (such as memory, thinking and reasoning). Further, Dr. Diminich and her team will collect blood samples throughout the study from participants to evaluate the presence of biological markers (biomarkers) associated with Alzheimer’s. 

Using their collected data, Dr. Diminich and her team will examine the links between exposure to stress, the emotional response to stress, and changes in the brain’s metabolism (chemical processes in the body that converts nutrients to energy). They will study how these links may be associated with increased risk for dementia and cognitive health in these participants. 


The results may uncover further information to understanding the increased risk of Alzheimer’s in the Hispanic/Latino population. Such information might lead to effective interventions to reduce the individual’s risk for later life dementia.

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