Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
About 300 former New Mexico students are being tapped for a national dementia research project.
But the participants are no strangers to being studied.
In the 1960s, a group of approximately 1,600 New Mexico high school students from seven schools were part of a landmark study that analyzed hundreds of thousands of students in America.
And now, nearly 60 years after the original research, some of the former Land of Enchantment students — who were picked at random — are being asked to join a new project that analyzes dementia called Project Talent Aging.
From Albuquerque, 45 former St. Pius X Catholic High School students have been asked to participate in Project Talent Aging.
“The original study was designed as a longitudinal study that could encompass any research topic,” Project Talent director Susan Lapham said.
The primary focus of the study in 1960 was on education and career readiness. But since then, there have been studies on gender pay gaps, quality of life and poverty among others using the same sample of people.
Project Talent Aging will include 22,500 individuals nationwide, who originally participated in the 1960 study, with the goal of recognizing early life predictors of dementia.
Lapham said the new study was sparked because the participants are at the age when Alzheimer’s disease typically strikes, and because of the growing demand in the country for Alzheimer’s research.
The disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the country, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and every 65 seconds, someone develops the disease in the U.S. The association says 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and that number is projected to jump to 14 million by 2050.
As for New Mexico, 2015 data shows 483 deaths from Alzheimer’s disease.
The research group, including the former New Mexico and Albuquerque students, will be asked about family, work, education, health status, daily life and even memories of the 1960s.
The goal is to identify if there are any early life predictors that either flag a greater risk for getting the disease or protective factors that help prevent it.
Lapham said she expects to have the results of the study available in late 2019.
Project Talent used high school reunions, contact forms, newsletters and online resources to keep up with the participants decades later.