Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive Impairment in Later Life

Merril Silverstein (HDFS / ASI) PI, Donna Korol (BIO) co-I
2020-2021 CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $20,998

Alzheimer’s Disease and related forms of dementia are considered one of the nation’s greatest social, medical and fiscal challenges because of the toll it takes on families, the individuals afflicted, and the health care system. Since dementia has a strong basis in biological (including genetic), socio-economic, behavioral, and psychological traits that are shared by family members, it is important to understand the familial etiology of dementia-related impairments, not only to determine the strength of transmission, but also to establish whether family risk factors are remediable through behavioral change and other interventions.

The goal of this CUSE Grant project is to (1) prepare a database and conduct preliminary analyses of existing dementia-relevant data from older parents born in the 1920s and 1930s who participated in a 45-year multigenerational study, and (2) develop a multi-disciplinary research strategy that will result in an R01 grant application to the NIH in 2021. This project will test the feasibility of collecting cognitive data from the baby-boom children of these parents, who also participated in this study, thereby enabling an investigation into the intergenerational transmission of cognitive impairment when both generations are assessed at 65 years of age and beyond. This project brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Syracuse University and other institutions to leverage these data to ultimately discover the factors that mediate, enhance, and inhibit the intergenerational transmission of cognitive disadvantage in later life.