Seniors in Rural Areas May Bring Answers to Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Related Syndromes

Researchers from the Department of Neuropsychiatry, School of Nursing and the Garrison Institute on Aging at the Health Sciences Center are studying cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related syndromes in rural West Texas.


How common is Alzheimer’s disease in rural West Texas? How does this disease present and progress in a rural setting? These are questions that remain largely unanswered, despite the exponential growth in information regarding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia related syndromes in urban areas.

Research Overlooks Rural Areas

Sid O’Bryant, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neuropsychiatry at the Health Sciences Center, says past research has often neglected rural areas and traditionally underserved ethnic minority population such as Mexican Americans. O’Bryant and colleagues in the Health Sciences Center Department of Neuropsychiatry, Nursing, and Garrison Institute on Aging recently received grant funding from the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation for the Cochran County Aging Study. The study is designed to look at all individuals ages 55 and over who reside in Cochran County, Texas.

“What does aging look like in rural America? Despite the large numbers of elders living in rural communities as well as the increasing proportion of Hispanics and Latinos residing within these communities, this question remains largely unanswered,” O’Bryant says. “It is important to research specific populations in order to clarify the risks and contributory factors for these diseases among these populations.”

Study's Detailed Focus is Unique

The Cochran County Aging Study is unique in that it is one of the first of its kind to examine the aging process in a rural community that is ethnically diverse. O’Bryant says this makes the Cochran County Aging Study unique to have such a detailed focus of research.

O’Bryant says they hope to follow Cochran County citizens for more than 10 years in order to investigate the influence of rural community residence as well as Hispanic heritage on the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Results from the current study will be published in peer reviewed national journals and presented at national conferences on aging.


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