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'Gray Matters Study' Seeks to Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014

USU faculty member and researcher Maria Norton

USU's Maria Norton leads a research group for a new study, the Gray Matters Alzheimer’s Prevention Study.

Researchers at Utah State University are seeking 150 participants for an eight-month pilot study on the effect of lifestyle changes on their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Participants in the Gray Matters Alzheimer’s Prevention Study should be aged 40 to 64 and live or work in Cache Valley. The study period will extend from early spring to late fall of 2014.

The research team includes 10 faculty members and 37 graduate and undergraduate students from the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services and the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. The Gray Matters study is led by Maria Norton of USU’s Family, Consumer and Human Development Department. Norton also led the Cache County Memory Study.

Many of the memory study’s participants have passed away, Norton said. But their children can now reap the benefits of their parents’ participation, as scientists have used their data to better understand genetic and environmental factors that contribute to dementia.

Now, those same children in Cache Valley are poised to make choices that could increase or decrease their chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Many are caregivers themselves, with firsthand knowledge of the toll AD takes on entire families.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but people can lower their risk through proven lifestyle choices, Norton said. She hopes that the possibility of a longer life with a healthy brain will motivate participants to join the study. The research seeks to quantify how much effect lifestyle changes can have on the participants’ risk of developing AD.

The data from Gray Matters will contribute important information to the ongoing national effort seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s. By signing up to be in the study, citizens of Cache Valley will have a unique opportunity to join the fight to end this devastating disease.

Gray Matters will include a control group and a treatment group. Participants in both groups will be involved in lab work at the beginning and end of the study and in online surveys administered at the beginning, middle and end of the research period.

In addition, members of the treatment group will be involved in a comprehensive health education campaign focused on evidence-based ways to lower their risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. These will be taught in workshops and community events.

To sign up, visit the “Now Recruiting” page of the Center for Human Nutrition Studies website and click on the photo under “Gray Matters.” An online survey then determines whether a candidate is eligible to join.

Related links:

Contact: Maria Norton,

Writer: JoLynne Lyon, 435-797-1463

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