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Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health

Cognitive Pathways to Disability Study

Michelle Carlson, PhD, Principal Investigator

The Cognitive Pathways to Disability study complements the Women's Health and Aging Study II (WHAS ll) to understand how age-related changes in various domains of cognition may exert downstream effects on physical function and the implementation of compensatory strategies.

Overview and Goals
Michelle Carlson, PhD, research scientist in the Department of Mental Health and core faculty member of the Center on Aging and Health (COAH), was recently  awarded a five-year Cognitive Pathways to Disability grant by the National Institute of Aging.

Her co-investigators include Linda Fried, MD, MPH, dean of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health; Qian-Li Xue, PhD, director of the Biostatistics Core in the COAH and faculty member in the Department of Epidemiology; and Paulo Chaves, MD, PhD, a core faculty member in the Center and a geriatrician in the Department of Epidemiology. 

The study will be conducted under the auspices of WHAS II to understand how changes in various cognitive abilities with increasing age may exert downstream effects on physical function. WHAS II offers a unique opportunity to explore in-depth the contributions of mental function to the progression from physical limitations to disability.

Firstly, upon entry into the WHAS II, the women were both cognitively and physically high functioning, allowing researchers to determine the circumstances under which changes in cognition predict subsequent changes in physical function.

Secondly, the majority of women have been evaluated repeatedly using state-of-the-art self-report and performance measures of mobility and complex physical functions, such as taking medications and preparing meals.

Finally, since its inception, this study has contained a comprehensive evaluation of attention, verbal and visuospatial memory, mental speed and language. 

Carlson and colleagues will address four primary objectives:

  1. To characterize rates of change in various cognitive abilities over a nine-year interval.
  2. To test whether and which cognitive changes predict changes observed and reported in physical function, independent of other known risk factors.
  3. To develop and validate sensitive instruments to assess changes in function, as well as compensations that may influence future progression of difficulty in complex activities of daily living.
  4. To translate these findings for use in a variety of clinical and community settings.

Key Personnel
Michelle Carlson, PhD
Linda Fried, MD, MPH     
Qian-Li Xue, PhD
Paulo Chaves, MD, PhD

Don Baughman, MS
Marcia D. Omondi
Vijay Varma

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COAH Scientific Seminar Series

Pepper Scholars Program Research-in-Progress Meeting

EBA Research-in-Progress Meeting

More info about events...

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JOB POSTING: Biostatistician Position Available

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