The rapid increase in the older segment of the population has stimulated intense scientific interest in normal and pathological cognitive functioning in older adults. The increasing prevalence with advancing age of debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's disease has led to a need for clinical and research methods for measurement of effects of these diseases, and cognitive tests play a major role in detecting, diagnosing and monitoring disease status and progression. Increasing demographic diversity creates special challenges for accurate measurement of cognition. Most cognitive tests that are in clinical and research use were developed using psychometric methods from the first half of the 20th century. There have been substantial advances in measurement theory and methodology, notably item response theory (IRT) and associated latent variable modeling methods, that could have an important impact on the measurement of cognition, study design, and analysis of cognitive variables. This conference series is designed to promote the application of modern psychometric methods in research on cognitive aging. Specific goals are: 1) to expose developing and established researchers in cognitive aging to modern psychometric and statistical modeling techniques, 2) to expose experts in psychometric theory and statistics to the practical and theoretical concerns of cognitive aging research, and 3) encourage production of manuscripts based on the collaborations of researchers, psychometricians, and statisticians during these conferences. We have conducted five successful annual conferences in the initial funding cycle of this grant. This experience has helped to shape our plans for the next generation of conferences. The format of the conferences will include didactic presentations by experts in cognitive aging and applied psychometric theory, demonstrations of psychometric and statistical analytic methods, and most importantly, hands-on experience using real data. This content and format is not only appropriate for encouraging education and collaboration of seasoned researchers but has also been an extremely effective learning environment for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty. Conference themes for the proposed five-year renewal period include aging brains in aging bodies, intervention studies, earliest cognitive decline associated with diseases of aging, measurement intensive longitudinal research designs, and genetics of cognitive aging. As in previous years, there will be a heavy emphasis on workgroups organized around scientific analyses of real data, and we plan to disseminate the information resulting from these workshops in both traditional academic outlets (e.g. submission of manuscripts for peer reviewed scientific journals) and through symposia at annual scientific conferences.
Research to understand and prevent cognitive decline in older populations has major public health significance. This conference will promote the use of advanced psychometric and statistical methods and will train new and experienced researchers in the application of these methods to understanding cognitive aging.
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