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Family, Consumer, and Human Development


Maria C. Norton

Ph.D., Professor

Email: maria.norton@usu.edu
Location: FL 111B / SER 129
Office Phone: 797.0613 /797.2491


Ph.D. (2001) - Utah State University, Psychology
M.S. (1982) - Utah State University, Applied Statistics
B.S. (1980) - University of California, Davis, Statistics


I have taught the following courses:

FCHD 3130: Undergraduate Research Methods
FCHD 3540: Adult Development and Aging
FCHD 4240: Social and Family Gerontology
FCHD 6030: Graduate Research Methods
FCHD 6900/7900 Graduate Statistics

Research Interests

Why Study Healthy Aging? Significant population aging is predicted over the next couple of decades in the U.S. and developed countries throughout the world.  Such a dramatic shift in the age composition of our nation demands solution to urgent public health and human development issues affecting quality of life in later years, looking for factors whose effects may begin decades before negative outcomes are realized.  Researchers are actively searching for the answer to questions such as why some individuals survive well into the 8th-10th decades of life with excellent cognitive and emotional health while others seem more vulnerable.  My research program focuses on geriatric mental health and the psychosocial factors that affect risk for depression and dementia in late-life, including lifestyle choices, stressful life events, social support networks, personality, religiosity, and the extent to which these factors might alter genetic influences.

My Research Program.  I am leading or involved as co-investigator on several projects with over $20 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health and Alzheimer’s Association.  An extensive archive of data has been successfully used in a number of MS thesis and PhD dissertations, with many more topics as yet unexplored which are available for future students.   I currently lead a team of 4 graduate student researchers, with a weekly team meeting to discuss the various student-led manuscripts in preparation using these data (the team is comprised of students in gerontology as well as other areas of human development and family relations).  I lead another team of 12 undergraduate researchers completing research practica on these projects.  Research projects are summarized below, with others under development. Call, stop by, or email me! I would be pleased to visit with students wanting more information about any of these research opportunities.

Cache County Study on Memory Health and Aging
(Co-I and PI at USU).
  This Duke University project is a large-scale NIH epidemiological study of dementia (1994-2011), examining lifestyle and genetic factors that affect risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias.

Lifespan Stressors and Alzheimer’s Disease
 This study is designed to examine psychosocial stressors across the entire lifespan (e.g. family member deaths, poverty, divorce, teen or unwed pregnancy, widowhood, premature offspring birth) and their association with late-life cognitive health, and the moderating effects of depression and genes.  

Early-Life Conditions, Survival and Health Study
(Co-I and PI at USU).  This University of Utah project uses a wide array of objective medical, Census, military, vital statistics and other records to characterize adverse conditions in early life and examine them as predictors of longevity and healthy aging.

Subjective Stress and Late-life Cognitive Health: Journal Pilot Study
(PI).  We are collecting personal journals of participants in the CCSMHA study and conducting computerized linguistic analysis to explore how expressive writing word use may offer clues to dementia risk decades before onset, which may inform future stress management interventions.  

Technology Adoption and Prediction Tool for Everyday Technologies
.  We are conducting a clinical trial designed to test feasibility of use of technical devices that provide reminders for daily activities to older adults with cognitive impairment.

Dementia Progression Study (Co-I).  This study is examining the interrelationships between the caregiving environment and the clinical course of dementia, exploring such factors as relationship closeness, caregiver coping strategies, engagement of the care receiver in cognitive activities, etc. 

Selected Publications

Norton, M.C., Clark, C.*, Fauth, E.B., Piercy, K.W., Pfister, R., Green, R.C., Corcoran, C., Rabins, P.V., Lyketsos, C.G., & Tschanz, J.T.  Caregiver personality predicts rate of cognitive decline in a community sample of persons with Alzheimer’s disease. The Cache County dementia progression study. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (in review).

Bradford, D.*, Tschanz, J.T., Smith, K.R., Østbye, T., Corcoran, C., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., & Norton, M.C. Impact of offspring death on cognitive health in late life. The Cache County study. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (resubmitted).

Norton, M.C., Dew, J., Smith, H.*, Fauth, E.B., Piercy, K.W., Breitner, J.C.S., Tschanz, J., Wengreen, H., & Welsh-Bohmer, K. (2012, March).  Lifestyle behavior pattern is associated with different levels of risk for incident dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The Cache County study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 60(3), 405-412.  DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03860.x  [PMID:   22316091 PMCID:  PMC3302927]

Lee, C.T.*, Leoutsakos, J.M., Lyketsos, C.G., Steffens, D.C., Breitner, J.C.S., & Norton, M.C. (2012, October).  Latent class-derived depression subgroups in a community sample of older adults: The Cache County study.  International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27(10),1061-1069. doi: 10.1002/gps.2824. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

Norton, M.C., Smith, K.R., Østbye, T., Tschanz, J.T., Corcoran, C., Schwartz, S., Skoog, I., Steffens, D.C., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., & Breitner, J.C.S. (2011, September). Early parental death and remarriage of widowed parents as risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.  American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 19(9), 814-824.  [PMCID: PMC3164808]

Norton, M.C., Smith, K.R., Østbye, T., Tschanz, J.T., Corcoran, C., Schwartz, S., Piercy, K.W., Rabins, P.V., Steffens, D.C., Skoog, I., Breitner, J.C.S., & Welsh-Bohmer, K.A.  (2010, May). Greater risk of dementia when spouse has dementia? The Cache County study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 58, 895-900.  [PMCID: PMC2945313]

Norton, M.C., Piercy, K.W., Rabins, P.V., Green, R.C., Breitner, J.C.S., Østbye, T., Corcoran, C., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., Lyketsos, C.G., & Tschanz, J.T. (2009).  Caregiver/recipient closeness and symptom progression in Alzheimer disease.  The Journals of Gerontology Series B:  Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. doi:  10.1093/geronb/gbp052

Norton, M.C., Østbye, T., Smith, K.R., Munger, R., & Tschanz, J.T.  (2009).  Early parental death and late-life dementia risk: Findings from the Cache County study. Age and Ageing, 38(3), 340-243.

Norton, M.C., Singh, A.*, Skoog, I., Corcoran, C., Tschanz, J.T., Zandi, P.P., Breitner, J.C.S., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., & Steffens, D.C. (2008, May). Church attendance and new episodes of  major depression in a community study of older adults. The Cache County study.  Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 63(3), 129-137.

Norton, M.C., Skoog, I., Toone, L., Corcoran, C., Tschanz, J.T., Lisota, R.D.*, Hart, A.D., Zandi, P.P., Breitner, J.C.S., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., & Steffens, D.C.  (2006). Three-year incidence of first-onset depressive illness in a population sample of older adults.  The Cache County study.  American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry14, 237-245.

Norton, M.C., Skoog, I., Franklin, L.M., Corcoran, C., Tschanz, J.T., Zandi, P.P., Breitner, J.C.S., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., & Steffens, D.C.  (2006).  Gender differences in the association between religious involvement and depression:  The Cache County (Utah) study.  Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological Sciences, 61, 129-136.

Østbye, T., Krause, K.M., Norton, M.C., Tschanz, J.T., Sanders, L., Hayden, K., Pieper, C., & Welsh-Bohmer, K.A.  (2006). Ten dimensions of health and their relationships with overall self-reported health and survival among the elderly in Utah: The Cache County Memory study. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 54, 199-209.

Tschanz, J.T., Treiber, K.,  Norton, M.C., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., Toone, L., Zandi, P.P.,  Szekely, C.A., Lyketsos, C., Breitner, J.C.S., and the Cache County Study Group. (2005). A population study of Alzheimer's disease: Findings from the Cache County Study on memory, health and aging. Care Management Journal, 6(2), 107-114.

Steffens, D.C., Norton, M.C., Hart, A.D., Skoog, I., Corcoran, C., & Breitner, J.C.S. (2003, April).  Apolipoprotein E genotype and major depression in a community of older adults. The Cache County study. Psychological Medicine, 33(3), 541-547.

Norton, M.C. (2001, December). Cross-sectional concordance and longitudinal risk for depression in elderly married couples.  Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 62(5-B), 2495.

Tschanz, J.T., Norton, M.C., & Calvert, T. (2001). Need for assistance in daily living activities and caregiver stress:  results from a community survey of over 5,000 individuals in Cache County, Utah.  Intermountain Aging Review, 3(1), 15-17.

Steffens, D.C., Skoog, I., Norton, M.C., Hart, A.D., Tschanz, J.T., Plassman, B.L., Wyse, B.W., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., & Breitner, J.C.S. (2000, June).   Prevalence of depression and its treatment in an elderly population.  The Cache County, Utah study. Archives of General Psychiatry,  57(6), 601-607.

Norton, M.C., Tschanz, J.T., Fan, X., Plassman, B.L., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., West, N., Wyse, B.W., & Breitner, J.C.S. (1999, October).  Telephone adaptation of the modified mini-mental state exam (3MS). The Cache County study. Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology and Behavioral Neurology, 12 (4), 270-276.

Steffens, D.C., Norton, M.C., Plassman, B.L., Tschanz, J.T., Wyse, B.W., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., Anthony, J.C., & Breitner, J.C.S.  (1999, October). Enhanced cognitive performance with estrogen use in non-demented community-dwelling older women,  Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 47(10), 1171-1175.

Norton, M.C., Breitner, J.C.S, Welsh, K.A., & Wyse, B.W. (1994).  Characteristics of  nonresponders in a community survey of the elderly.  Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 42, 1252-1256.