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Funded Research

Risk and resilience mechanisms underlying race disparities in ADRD: An examination of neighborhood resources, social networks, brain integrity, and cognition

Racial disparities in Alzheimer?s disease and related dementias (ADRD) are apparent and pervasive. However, the mechanisms and moderators are understudied. These disparities may, in part, be due to racial differences in available neighborhood resources such as parks and senior centers. The presence of these resources may contribute to brain and cognitive health in older adulthood. Furthermore, the impact of living in an under-resourced neighborhood may be buffered by individuals? social networks. This study?s overall goal is to clarify risk and resilience mechanisms underlying race disparities in ADRD by: 1) Determining whether racial differences in neighborhood resources contribute to racial disparities in cognitive function; 2) Examining the moderating role of social networks in the association between neighborhood resources and cognition; 3) Characterizing the role of brain integrity in associations between neighborhood resources and cognition. The research plan will leverage primary data collection efforts of the Michigan Cognitive Aging Project, which is a regionally-representative cohort study of older adults in Southeastern Michigan.
This K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award application will also facilitate the training and professional development of a junior scientist with existing expertise in direct clinical care to accelerate the applicant?s trajectory towards ADRD research independence. The applicant will be supported by a strong mentorship team with primary mentors at the University of Michigan?s Institute for Social Research and Department of Psychology. Together, the mentorship and advisory team will provide expertise in cognitive aging, neuroimaging, ADRD race disparities, and social networks. The training plan will help: a) expand the applicant’s substantive knowledge of the built environment, social networks, and the neuroanatomy underlying cognitive aging; b) improve the applicant’s statistical methodological skills, particularly those pertaining to geospatial analysis, causal inference, latent variable modeling, pooling datasets, and operationalizing cognitive reserve/resilience; c) develop the applicant’s expertise in the recruitment and retention of older racial and ethnic minority participants in longitudinal research; and d) enhance the applicant’s grant writing skills.
The proposed research directly addresses Goals D and F of the NIA Strategic Directions for Research on Aging, which calls for more research on 1) contexts influencing mechanisms underlying cognitive and brain aging and 2) understanding health disparities among older adults. Our findings will have the potential to contextualize individual differences in ADRDs to inform interventions to mitigate persistent racial inequalities in ADRDs.


Health and Human Services, Department of-National Institutes of Health

Funding Period:

09/01/2021 to 05/31/2026