September 24, 2020

Grant facilitates research on behavioral development and cognitive aging over lifespan

UC Riverside psychologist Chandra Reynolds will lead the five-year research project

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
September 24, 2020

The National Institute on Aging, or NIA, has awarded psychologists Chandra A. Reynolds of the University of California, Riverside, and Sally J. Wadsworth of the University of Colorado-Boulder a grant of more than $11 million to continue studying lifespan behavioral development and cognitive aging as individuals transition to mid-adulthood.

In 2015, the researchers received a five-year grant from the NIA to study how early childhood influences versus recent influences affect cognitive and physical health by middle age. That study, called the Colorado Adoption/Twin Study of Lifespan behavioral development and cognitive aging, or CATSLife, showed the leading gene for Alzheimer’s disease risk, APOE, is associated with child and adolescent IQ performance. In addition, the study showed early-life stress vulnerability may predict differential gains in how quickly individuals respond to information by adolescence; those differences may be carried forward into adulthood.  

Chandra Reynolds is a professor of psychology at UC Riverside.

Reynolds is the contact principal investigator, or PI, of the new multi-PI grant, titled “Colorado Adoption/Twin Study of Lifespan Behavioral Development & Cognitive Aging (CATSLife2).” Collaborators include Sergio Rey and Elijah Knaap of UCR’s Center for Geospatial Sciences, as well as scientists at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Pennsylvania State University, University of Texas at Austin, and Kings College London. The Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado-Boulder is the primary site for CATSLife data collection; Kings College London is the primary site of the Twins Early Development Study, or TEDS. 

The CATSLife2 project will conduct a five-year follow-up of CATSLife to evaluate cognitive stability and change across the midlife transition in 1,400 participants from the prospective Colorado Adoption Project and parallel Longitudinal Twin Study. Together, in the form of CATSLife, these studies have now tracked individuals from infancy to the cusp of middle adulthood. In addition, further integration of TEDS is planned to explore similar predictors of cognitive maintenance in 5,000 twins. 

“Preserved cognitive function may have roots in earlier life and be cultivated by activities and experiences as individuals approach and transition to midlife,” said Reynolds, a professor of psychology. “We will consider pathways in relation to genetic factors and the environments that individuals shape: associated lifestyle and health behaviors, biomarkers of accelerated aging, and neighborhood-contextual factors — such as disadvantage, urbanicity, access to parks and trails, walkability — that influence how individuals maintain cognitive abilities into midlife. The public health relevance is high to the extent that aging-relevant factors are observed in earlier life that impact how we function into midlife and beyond.”

UCR is the award site. Reynolds, an expert in aging, will lead the scientific agenda and administer the project with the collaborating institutions.

Reynolds, Wadsworth, Rey, and Knaap will be joined by Robin P. Corley, John DeFries, Jarrod Ellingson, Luke Evans, Naomi Friedman, John K. Hewitt, Christopher D. Link, Soo Rhee, Andrew Smolen, and Michael C. Stallings at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado-Boulder; Thalia Eley, Robert Plomin, and Kaili Rimfeld at Kings College London; Elizabeth Munoz at the University of Texas at Austin; and Martin J. Sliwinski at Pennsylvania State University.

Header image: Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash.

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