The proposed research aims to evaluate the association between neighborhood context and cognitive function among racially and ethnically diverse middle-aged adults. The United States? population is aging at unprecedented rates and it is also becoming diverse with racial and ethnic minority adults suffering a greater incidence of Alzheimer?s disease and related dementias compared to non-Hispanic white adults. Psychological and biological markers of chronic stress are important predictors of cognitive function and the neighborhood contexts in which individuals live, or have previously lived in, comprise an important backdrop for linking the effects of chronic stress to cognitive function. Neighborhood characteristics and race and ethnicity are interrelated and studying the effects of neighborhood contexts on cognitive function will inform on relevant determinants of cognitive health disparities. Further, because cognitive decline may begin long before old age, understanding its antecedents requires mapping changes that manifest in early and middle adulthood. In order to develop a more nuanced understanding of the link between neighborhoods and cognitive function, it is imperative to 1) determine the extent to which neighborhood stress is associated with cognitive function across racial and ethnic groups; 2) examine which specific facets of cognitive functioning are affected by neighborhood stress; and 3) evaluate the interplay between neighborhood context and genetic influences on cognitive function. The PI aims to address these aims by leveraging the strengths of three studies of middle- aged adults, CATSLife, ESCAPE, and MIDUS II to comprehensively assess the associations between neighborhood stress and cognitive function. The proposed research will make a timely contribution to our understanding of contextual influences on cognitive function. Moreover, the research and training plan proposed under this award will advance the PI?s scientific and career development in several ways. With her sponsors? mentorship and training activities, the PI will achieve three career goals: 1) learn and apply new skills on integrative data analysis and neighborhood coding techniques; 2) broaden conceptual understanding and gain advanced analytical experience in behavioral genetics; 3) develop the skills needed to design and implement studies that incorporate environmental and genetic perspectives to the study of context and cognitive function and aging. Achievement of these goals will position the PI to launch an independent line of research that will inform theoretical and empirical understanding on the influence of social/contextual sources of stress on cognitive health in adulthood, with a focus on elucidating common and/or differential associations across racial and ethnic groups.

Public Health Relevance

The neighborhood context in which individuals develop plays an important role in determining function in old age and may aid in understanding racial and ethnic disparities in cognitive impairment, Alzheimer?s disease and related dementias. This investigation will coordinate analyses across three studies of middle-aged adults to comprehensively assess the nature of the association between neighborhood contexts and cognitive function. Findings will increase understanding on the effect of neighborhood context characteristics on cognitive functioning and inform the tailoring of prevention and intervention efforts aimed at reducing the burden of cognitive impairment in older adults.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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King, Jonathan W
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University of California Riverside
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Munoz, Elizabeth; Stawski, Robert S; Sliwinski, Martin J et al. (2018) The Ups and Downs of Cognitive Function: Neuroticism and Negative Affect Drive Performance Inconsistency. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci :
Phibbs, Sandi; Stawski, Robert S; MacDonald, Stuart W S et al. (2017) The influence of social support and perceived stress on response time inconsistency. Aging Ment Health :1-8