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Race, Meaning and Purpose in Life, and Markers of Brain Health for Alzheimer’s Disease

Mukundan, Aishwarya (2023) Race, Meaning and Purpose in Life, and Markers of Brain Health for Alzheimer’s Disease. Master Essay, University of Pittsburgh.

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Introduction: Meaning and purpose in life (M&P) represents goal direction and meaning for individuals. Higher M&P is related to better global cognition. However, papers included either predominantly White or Black samples. We aimed to test the association of M&P with brain health markers in a roughly equal Black and White sample to assess racial differences. We hypothesized that higher M&P scores would be associated with better markers of brain health and that the association would be stronger among Black compared to White individuals.

Methods: 206 adults (50-89 years) were included. M&P was measured by the National Institutes of Health Toolbox. Brain health was characterized as general cognition by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, cortical thickness from magnetic resonance imaging, and beta-amyloid (Aβ) burden from positron emission tomography scans with Pittsburgh compound B. Race was self-reported as either White or Black/African American. The association of M&P with brain outcomes was assessed by linear regression adjusted for years of education, sex, age, and separately, depressive symptoms. Effect modification by race was assessed with inclusion of a race*M&P interaction term and race-stratified models when the interaction p<0.10.

Results: While there was no association between M&P and two markers of brain health– global Aβ and cortical thickness (both p>0.10)– among cognitively normal participants, there was an association between higher M&P scores and better global cognition (β=0.090, p=0.022). Further, in the whole sample, the results varied by race (interaction p=0.073), with higher M&P scores associated with better global cognition for Black (β=0.11, p=0.011), but not White participants (β=0.0081, p=0.83). There was no effect modification for amyloid or cortical thickness (p’s for interaction all>0.10).

Conclusion: Greater M&P is associated with better global cognition in Black older adults. Studies should assess whether other brain health markers are related to M&P and if and how promoting M&P may improve brain health outcomes and enhance brain health equity, thus providing a significant public health impact.


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Item Type: Other Thesis, Dissertation, or Long Paper (Master Essay)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mukundan, Aishwaryaaim25@pitt.eduaim250009-0007-7423-8184
ContributionContributors NameEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis advisorShaaban, C. Elizabethbeth.shaaban@pitt.educesst520000-0002-3016-1951
Committee MemberRosso, Andrea L.alr143@pitt.edualr1430000-0001-5890-9856
Committee MemberCohen, Ann D.cohenad@upmc.eduanc2597UNSPECIFIED
Date: 17 May 2023
Date Type: Completion
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 58
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Epidemiology
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master Essay
Refereed: No
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alzheimer's disease and related dementia; AT(N) framework; biomarkers; cognitive aging; psychosocial factors
Date Deposited: 17 May 2023 14:36
Last Modified: 17 May 2023 14:36


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