Grant to study cognitive health in elderly American Indians

Buchwald-webSPOKANE, Wash. – Researchers at Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane recently were awarded a $3.655 million four-year grant from the National Institute on Aging to study cognitive health among elderly American Indians.

Led by Dedra Buchwald, professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the work will fill significant gaps in the knowledge of elder health among Native Americans, who suffer some of the worst health disparities of any demographic group in the U.S.

“The elders in our study are resilient,” said Buchwald. “They grew up under difficult conditions. Many were removed from their homes as children and forced to attend government-sponsored boarding schools where their culture and language were suppressed.

“Our research will measure changes in their cerebrovascular and cognitive health over the five years since they were last examined by our study team,” she said. “This study will allow us to define the risk factors, as well as protective factors such as speaking a native language, associated with brain health.”

The work follows up on brain scanning done as part of the ongoing Strong Heart Study of Native Americans that began in 1989. The new award will enable Buchwald and her collaborators to re-examine 450 Strong Heart Study survivors and add to a growing database of Native American elder health.

“Strong Heart Study is the only existing cohort of Native adults with high-quality, longitudinal clinical data,” Buchwald noted. “Our findings will be a critical resource for future research on Alzheimer’s in Native communities.”

The work will be done within the framework of the University of Washington Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, led by interim director Thomas Grabowski.


Dedra Buchwald, WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, 206-708-8622,