Mayo Clinic Study of Aging

Program leader: Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D.
Program manager: Josie M. Williams, M.A.
Funded by: National Institute on Aging (U01 AG06786) and Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging is a long-term epidemiologic, population-based prospective study about cognitive changes related to aging.

Since it began in 2004, the Study of Aging has provided important information about cognitive and brain aging trajectories; characterization of and outcomes for mild cognitive impairment; insights into vascular, psychiatric and inflammatory predictors of cognitive impairment; and better understanding of in vivo brain pathology.

The broad long-term goals of the Study of Aging are to:

  • Develop tools to predict and prevent cognitive decline and dementia
  • Develop risk-prediction models for cognitive impairment
  • Conduct aging-related research to promote successful aging

The study has already accomplished several of its original goals, which included:

  • Estimating the prevalence and incidence of mild cognitive impairment and dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and other dementias
  • Identifying protective factors and risk factors for these conditions in Olmsted County, Minnesota
  • Determining long-term outcomes of these conditions

The study is funded by the National Institute on Aging, private foundations and benefactors. Funding for the last renewal application provides support for the study through June 2019.

The Study of Aging has enrolled more than 3,500 Olmsted County residents without previous diagnoses of dementia in their medical records who were 30 to 89 years old at the time of enrollment, with an equal number of men and women.

Study participants undergo an extensive clinical evaluation to determine whether they have mild cognitive impairment or dementia or are cognitively normal at the time of enrollment. They are evaluated about every 15 to 30 months to determine if anyone has progressed to develop new onset of mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

About 50 to 60 percent of the participants consent to brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging using 11C Pittsburgh compound-B 18F-AV-1451 tau and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose, to assess cerebrovascular disease, neurodegeneration, amyloid deposition and brain metabolism. About 25 percent consent to undergo a lumber puncture to measure amyloid and tau metabolites in cerebrospinal fluid.

Research related to the study has resulted in numerous peer-reviewed publications and extensive national and international collaborations.

The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging includes key investigators from the Division of Epidemiology who also conduct research in the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Mayo Clinic.

Study of Aging focus areas

Research area Faculty
Mild cognitive impairment characterization David S. Knopman, M.D.
Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D.
Imaging (MRI) Clifford R. Jack Jr., M.D.
David S. Knopman, M.D.
Val Lowe, M.D.
Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D.
PET imaging, amyloid and tau imaging Clifford R. Jack Jr., M.D.
Val Lowe, M.D.
REM sleep behavior disorders and non-Alzheimer's dementias Bradley F. Boeve, M.D.
Psychiatric risk factors, exercise Yonas E. Geda, M.D.
Biomarker development Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D.
Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory markers, dietary factors Rosebud O. Roberts, M.B., Ch.B.
Neuropathology Dennis W. Dickson, M.D.
Genetic markers Nilufer Taner, M.D., Ph.D.
Tau protein Leonard Petrucelli, Ph.D.


Josie M. Williams, M.A.

  • Alzheimer's Disease Research Center
  • Mayo Clinic
    4111 Highway 52 North
    Rochester, MN 55901
  • 507-284-1324