Stacy Andersen

Assistant Professor, Medicine, MED

PhD, Medicine, Boston University

Assistant Professor, Medicine, School of Medicine

Stacy Andersen, Ph.D. has conducted research with the New England Centenarian Study since 2000. Her earlier work involved the investigation of the delay or escape of age-related illnesses and disability in centenarians and their family members. She first investigated this hypothesis in relation to cancer, normally associated with high mortality risk. In this study, she documented a 17-year delay in the onset of cancer diagnoses compared with a national cancer database. Much more recently, she published evidence that those truly near the limit of human life span, supercentenarians (age 110+ years), postpone not only morbidity but also functional and cognitive decline. The supercentenarians spend an average of the last 5 years of their lives with one or more age-related diseases whereas younger centenarians spend approximately 9 years with morbidity. These studies demonstrate that extremely long-lived individuals are models for disease-free aging that can help us learn more about health spans and successful aging.

More recently Dr. Andersen has been investigating cognitive function in family members of long-lived individuals in the Long Life Family Study. Analyses of cognitive function in this cohort revealed that family members from the offspring generation perform better on some tests of neuropsychological function than their spouses who do not have familial longevity. In addition, there is familial clustering of exceptional episodic memory performance such that individuals with high-performing family members were more likely to demonstrate better episodic memory than those without high-performing family members. Assessment of more specific deficits in cognitive function consistent with Alzheimer’s disease revealed a lower risk of impairment among individuals with familial longevity compared with their spouses. Dr. Andersen’s dissertation research involved an expanded neuropsychological assessment protocol in this cohort. She documented that in spite of average fewer years of education and lower proxies of cognitive reserve, participants with familial longevity performed at the same levels as the referent group. She concluded that individuals with familial longevity may have non-education related advantages that may be conducive to preserved cognitive function. She is now investigating a variety of potential modifiers of cognitive function in this cohort.

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