Pilot Study on Neurocognitive Aging


This pilot study funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, examines whether chronic stress due to experiences of racism and social discrimination negatively affects brain function in two subgroups of African American/Black seniors. A larger percentage of Black/African Americans than Americans of European ancestry have Alzheimer’s disease. The reasons for this health disparity are unclear. Discrimination related to racial minority status is a known chronic stressor. The Alzheimer’s health disparity may, in part, be explained by differences in racialized chronic stress. Experiences of racism and social discrimination are common among Black/African Americans, the largest minority group in the United States. The hippocampus, a brain area critical for memory formation, among other brain systems, is negatively impacted by both Alzheimer’s disease and chronic stress. The goal of this research study is to examine whether racialized chronic stress in Black/African American seniors could lead to poorer performance on neuropsychological tests of cognitive function. As part of this research and in collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Campus, we are also comparing Black/African American seniors living in the Boston area where they are members of the racial minority with Black/African American/Afro-Carribean seniors living on St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands where they are members of the racial majority on cognitive function.