Current Research

Michigan Cognitive Aging Project (MCAP)

We are building a longitudinal cohort of racially and socioeconomically diverse individuals transitioning from mid to late-life (ages 60-65). To ensure population representativeness, we utilize a direct mail recruitment method targeting census tracts in Detroit, MI and Ypsilanti, MI. Participants undergo psychosocial interviews, comprehensive neuropsychological assessment, and blood spot collection. To maximize participation, these visits can take place at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Campus, the University of Michigan Detroit Center, or in the home, depending on participant preference. A subset of eligible participants undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol, including structural scans, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and resting-state fMRI. Goals of this project are to investigate how life course psychosocial experiences get under the skin and into the skull to shape cognitive aging trajectories and the expression of neurodegenerative disease.


  • Department of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center (P30 AG 053760)
  • Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (P30 AG024824)
  • Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging (P30 AG 012846)
  • Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (UL1 TR002240)


Michigan Center for Contextual Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease (MCCFAD)

Along with Drs. Kristine Ajrouch and Toni Antonucci, Dr. Zahodne co-directs this Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (AD-RCMAR), whose long-term goal is to eliminate disparities in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) by contributing to the development of the research workforce and engaging diverse communities in research. The Research and Education Core provides a 2-year enrichment program and pilot funding for faculty wishing to conduct research on ADRD epidemiology, health economics, or culturally-sensitive care. It also hosts a Summer Data Immersion at the Institute for Social Research to provide didactics and manuscript development support to researchers wishing to use publicly-available data resources to address priority areas within ADRD. The Community Liaison and Recruitment Core works directly with Arab American community members in metropolitan Detroit, MI and Latinx community members in Grand Rapids, MI to provide health learning events and develop a participant resource pool to support research. The Analysis Core supports Center activities to advance state-of-the-art methods for conducting culturally-sensitive ADRD research.


  • P30 AG059300


Alzheimer’s Disease Risk and Ethnic Factors: The Case of Arab Americans

This regionally-representative study will provide the first prevalence estimates of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) among Arab Americans in metropolitan Detroit, which has long been home to the largest concentrated population of Arabs outside of the Middle East. Recent research has documented that Arab Americans are at heightened risk for a variety of adverse health outcomes, which may relate to immigration histories and increasing racialization and stigmatization since 9/11 and the initiation of the War on Terror. This project will conduct face-to-face, in-home assessments with Arab Americans aged 65 years and older, including physical, functional, and psychosocial evaluations, as well as comprehensive neuropsychological testing. This project will also produce previously-unavailable neuropsychological materials in Modern Standard Arabic, as well as normative data.


  • R01 AG057510

  • Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging (P30 AG 012846)


Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project (WHICAP)

This population-representative epidemiological study of aging and dementia led by investigators at Columbia University Medical Center has been following Caribbean Hispanic, African American, and non-Hispanic White older adults in northern Manhattan since 1992. Our lab collects and analyzes psychosocial and longitudinal MRI data to characterize mechanisms underlying racial and ethnic disparities in incident Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) and to identify resilience factors.


  • RF1AG054023, R01 AG037212 (Mayeux)

  • R01 AG054520 (Brickman/Zahodne)

  • R00 AG047963 (Zahodne)

  • K99 AG047963 (Zahodne)

  • National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1 TR001873)


The Cognitive Costs and Benefits of Social Technology Use in Older Adulthood

Social engagement is an important protective factor for age-related cognitive decline and dementia. However, it is unclear whether social engagement through social technologies (i.e., texting, social media, video chat, email) demonstrate the same protective effects as face-to-face social interactions. Prior research examining relationships between social technology and cognitive functioning in later life have been mixed, with some studies showing protective effects and others showing the inverse. These mixed findings may, in part, be due to discrepancies in the measurement of social technology use, as well as individual differences in the type of social technology used, underlying motivations for use (social, entertainment, professional, etc.), and patterns of use (active vs. passive). This study will address each of these gaps. First, using an internet panel of adults from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (n = 700), this study will assess whether previously-established social technology measures demonstrate measurement equivalence across younger and older adult populations and are psychometrically sound for use in older adults. Second, informed by our findings from the internet panel of adults, this study will incorporate a battery of social technology questionnaires into an on-going, community-based longitudinal study of diverse older adults (n = 240) to establish the relationship between social technology and cognition. Specifically, this study will assess whether the relationship between social technology use and cognition is moderated by the type of social technology used, motivations for use, and patterns of use in order to clarify the effects of these new social technology platforms on cognitive functioning. In light of the increasing ubiquity of social technology use in society and its growing prevalence among older adults in particular, this research may have long-term implications such that they may help to inform future interventions on the use of online-based social interactions to preserve cognition in later life.


  • NIA, P30 AG012846 (Bound)

  • Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging (MiCDA)


School Quality and Racial Disparities in Alzheimer’s Disease in Project Talent

This unprecedented study, led by Dr. Jennifer Manly at Columbia University, is conducting a 58-year follow-up of approximately 14,000 older adults who participated in a comprehensive, multi-day assessment as high school students in 1960. The overarching goal is to characterize resilience to the long-term effects of early-life adversity on risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). Specifically, this study will examine the contributions of of school quality and racial segregation of schools to the later-life cognitive functioning of African Americans and non-Hispanic Whites.


  • RF1 AG056164


Advancing Reliable Measurement in Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Aging (ARMADA)

The NIH Toolbox is a standardized set of neurobehavioral measures intended to quickly assess cognitive, emotional, sensory, and motor functions using an iPad. The goal of ARMADA is to validate English and Spanish versions of an expanded NIH Toolbox in existing, well-characterized, ethnically and racially diverse older adults ages 65-85 with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease, including participants in the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center and the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project (WHICAP).


  • U2C AG057441


Secondary Data Projects

To address research questions centered on psychosocial factors in cognitive aging and dementia inequalities, our lab takes full advantage of data resources housed in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, including the Health and Retirement Study, the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, and the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging. We use advanced statistical methods, including latent growth curve modeling, to analyze biological, psychosocial, and cognitive data from large, representative cohorts across a variety of studies.