Harvard Pop Center awarded grant by NIA to further research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias among older adults in rural South Africa

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has awarded the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies (HCPDS) a five-year grant to further its research on a rapidly growing, under-studied, at-risk population—older adults in rural South Africa— by honing in on the social and biological risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). The Cognitive Function, Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders in the HAALSI Cohort study is a collaboration with Witwatersrand University in South Africa, Columbia University in New York, and the University of California at San Francisco. The study aims to make significant strides towards understanding the prevalence, incidence, and underlying mechanisms contributing to dementia in rural South Africa by leveraging the research underway in the parent study, Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study of an INDEPTH Community in South Africa (HAALSI). The new study will follow a cohort of 600 participants through two additional waves of dementia diagnostic evaluation—including an enriched cognitive battery, informant interviews, and neurological examinations. Additional participants at risk for dementia will be recruited from the parent HAALSI study, ultimately leading to a more accurate understanding of ADRD prevalence in the larger cohort. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and venous blood draws will be conducted to better characterize structural brain aging, and biological and genetic markers of ADRD in this unique population.