Research: Childhood Contributors to Dementia

Research: Childhood Contributors to Dementia

A Step Toward Clarity: 
How Researchers are Gaining Understanding of Childhood Contributors to Dementia

The University of Minnesota received $14.2 million in new funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to begin collecting blood samples from a diverse sample of over 25,000 people from around the county to better understand how childhood conditions and experiences shape later-life risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

This project adds a new component to the ongoing High School and Beyond (HS&B) study, a nationally-representative cohort who have been interviewed multiple times since they were high school students in 1980. With the addition of blood collection and testing, due in part to initial seed funding provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, researchers hope to find markers of neuropathology that are evident in blood, years before people begin to exhibit signs of dementia. 

In addition, researchers hope to also gain insight into how health inequities and social and educational disparities may contribute to variations in cognitive impairment. In a press release from the University of Minnesota, grant principal investigator John Robert Warren, professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts, HS&B project co-director, and MPC Director, stated, “There is growing evidence that racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in rates of late life dementia have roots in inequalities in educational opportunities and experiences, childhood economic circumstances, and other early life conditions.”  

According to Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association Vice President of Medical and Scientific Relations, “In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that understanding multiple factors across the entire life course is essential to unraveling the riddle of what may or may not contribute to a person’s risk for cognitive decline and dementia – and this is essential for strategies to ultimately stop, slow or prevent disease progression.”  

The project brings together an interdisciplinary team of leading neurologists, sociologists, education scientists, neuropathologists, and survey methodologists from around the country and will be based at the University of Minnesota’s Population Center (MPC). To learn more about this research:

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