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The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging targets brain health

Thanks to the Weston Family Foundation, the CLSA will resort to MRI imaging and microbiome analyses to investigate cognitive aging

As a proud partner of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) is happy to embark on the Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative, to shed light on the many factors that influence brain health as we age, including lifestyle and the human microbiome. As announced by McMaster University, the Weston Family Foundation is awarding a $12-million research grant to the CLSA for that new research component.

The Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative will feature a cohort of 6,000 research participants who are currently enrolled in the CLSA. It marks the first time a national study of aging in Canada has introduced both brain imaging and microbiome analyses to investigate cognitive aging in the population over time.

The goal of the six-year Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative is to enhance the CLSA platform with longitudinal data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and microbiome analyses of the gut, to help researchers examine how diverse lifestyle, medical, psychosocial, economic, and environmental factors as well as changes in the microbiome correlate with healthy aging outcomes. This data will be critical to the future development of screening and prevention strategies that promote brain health for aging Canadians.

“This initiative exemplifies the potential of the CLSA as a research platform. This important investment will benefit not only the science of the platform but also the research team and the study participants, without whom this research would not be possible,” says Dr. Christina Wolfson, a Senior Scientist at the RI-MUHC, Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Occupational Health, and the Department of Medicine at McGill and co-principal investigator of the CLSA.

With more than 50,000 participants, the CLSA follows Canadian men and women for 20 years to better understand why some people remain healthier than others as they age.

“These enhancements to the CLSA research platform will provide researchers with critical data to better understand the basis of successful cognitive aging,” says professor Parminder Raina, lead principal investigator of the CLSA and scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging. “We thank the Weston Family Foundation for their generous support and commitment to this incredibly important area of study, which we hope will have an undeniable impact on the health of Canadians.”

Potential breakthroughs as a result of data gathered by the Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative will not only improve the health of Canadians as they age but will generate research evidence to inform policy and programs that increase the agency of Canadians on their own health outcomes.

About the Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative

The Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative is a six-year study, funded by the Weston Family Foundation, that will create new datasets to enhance the CLSA database and facilitate independent research into the link between lifestyle, the human microbiome, and brain health. The study will involve 6,000 research participants enrolled in the CLSA, including more than 2,500 who will undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor brain structure and function as they age. The resulting standardized datasets will be available for use by approved public-sector researchers in Canada and internationally.

About the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging

The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) is a large, national research platform on health and aging allowing researchers to answer critical questions on the biological, medical, psychological, social, lifestyle and economic aspects of aging, disability and disease. The CLSA follows 51,338 men and women, who were aged 45 to 85 at recruitment, for 20 years. The aim of the CLSA is to find ways to help us live long and live well, and to understand why some people age in healthy fashion while others do not. The addition of brain imaging and gut microbiome assessments to the CLSA will provide researchers in Canada and around the world with critical data to better understand the basis of successful cognitive aging.