MSLS celebrates 45 years of data collection, healthcare impacts

In 1974, emeritus professor of Psychology Dr. Merrill (Pete) Elias started the Maine Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) in Syracuse, New York. Though the purpose of the study at its inception was to examine high blood pressure and cognitive function, the scope was later expanded study the additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease (such as diabetes, obesity, arterial stiffness, nutrition) and cognition.

By 1976, the University of Maine was the center-stage for MSLS.

Fayeza Ahmed is the first associate director for MSLS, tasked with assuring that the data of the project is properly utilized by the UMaine and broader research community.

Ahmed is an assistant professor in Psychology, researching the brain-behavior relationship. She enjoys the UMaine research atmosphere.

“This is a wonderful university with top-notch researchers, small classrooms and friendly people. I love it here,” she says.

MSLS includes research contributions of over 150 publications and a rich database consisting of 2472 participants. The project is also a major collaborative research venture involving a large pool of researchers from multiple institutes in the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Australia and the United States.

This study has advanced the research and knowledge in its niche significantly. Ahmed says the most important finding was that antihypertensive medications do not cause cognitive deficit as was once hypothesized and that sustained uncontrolled arterial hypertension is associated with decline in cognitive functioning over time. Also, that cognitive decline is exacerbated by the presence of multiple cardiovascular risk factors but can be treated by diet as well as medication.

Student researchers are also benefiting significantly from this project. Taylor McMillan and Olivia Bogucki are doctoral researchers in Clinical Psychology and the experience of participating in the MSLS has enriched both of their careers.

“This dataset is extremely rich and will continue to assist researchers in understanding the relationship between health and cognition, while also understanding these relationships over a long period of time,” says McMillan. “I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with this dataset.”

Bogucki agrees.

“As a MSLS student investigator, I had the opportunity to contribute to every aspect of the research process – from crafting a question to reviewing the literature, contributing to manuscript preparation and revision, and managing the archive of published papers.

I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work with such a rich longitudinal database so early in my career.”

For a detailed description of the MSLS, including its history, collaborators, and list of publications, please visit the MSLS website.

Author: Baidehi Roy
Media Contact: Christel Peters, 207.581.3571