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Examining the association of race and neighborhood greenspace on cognitive outcomes: brain structure and impairment free life span

Godina, Sara (2023) Examining the association of race and neighborhood greenspace on cognitive outcomes: brain structure and impairment free life span. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Consistently, studies indicate there are stark racial differences in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease. Residential segregation is considered a fundamental driver of racial disparities in health, as racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in neighborhoods with less access to and differing quality of resources that promote health and wellness. Specific aspects of disadvantaged neighborhoods, including decreased greenspace, are associated with poorer cognitive function. Prior work has been limited by a lack of structural neuroimaging and infrequent use of person-centered cognitive outcomes among racially diverse older adults. This dissertation utilized secondary data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study, a population-based, biracial sample of adults aged 70-79 at entry. In Aim 1, we examined whether there were racial differences in physical indicators of brain health (measured by gray matter macrostructure), and what factors explain such differences. We found that White individuals consistently showed less evidence of neurodegeneration in two regions of interest (parahippocampal gyrus and entorhinal cortex) compared to Black individuals, and these associations were only partially explained by the demographic, environmental, and psychosocial factors considered. In Aim 2, we investigated the association between the overall percent of neighborhood greenspace (derived from the 2007 National Land Cover Dataset) and physical indicators of brain health (measured by gray matter micro-structure). We found more greenspace was associated with worse brain integrity in two regions of interest (left precuneus and thalamus), and we found no evidence of effect modification by race. In Aim 3, we determined the association between more granular measures of neighborhood greenspace and Cognitively Healthy Life Years (CHLYs), or years lived to the first occurrence of cognitive problems. We found the presence of abandoned buildings or homes in the neighborhood was associated with fewer CHLYs (stronger in White participants), and the presence of parks, walking, or biking trails was associated with fewer life years (stronger in Black participants). Taken together, our results suggest psychosocial factors and the type of neighborhood greenspace may represent modifiable targets in future interventions to promote healthy cognitive aging and reduction of disparities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Godina, SaraSAG189@pitt.eduSAG189
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRosso, Andreaalr143@pitt.edualr143
Committee MemberGary-Webb, Tiffanytgary@pitt.edutgary0000-0001-9843-1084
Committee MemberBuchanich, Jeaninejeanine@pitt.edujeanine0000-0003-4658-3654
Committee MemberSnitz,
Date: 24 August 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 July 2023
Approval Date: 24 August 2023
Submission Date: 1 August 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 146
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Epidemiology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: epidemiology; cognition; health disparities; environmental factors
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2023 13:51
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2023 18:20


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