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February 25, 2010

Dementia Study at USU Examines Factors that Increase Disease Progression

JoAnn Tschanz recently had a proposal funded for over $10 million from the ARRA program.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has, to date, funded over $10 million in research proposals at USU.  JoAnn Tschanz, a professor in the department of psychology at USU, has been awarded $2.9 million in ARRA funding from the National Institutes of Health, to lead the Cache County Dementia Progression Study (DPS). “Progression of Dementia: A Population Study,” is a continuation of the work she has done previously on dementia and the factors that influence its progression.

Emerging from a larger population study, the Cache County Study on Memory in Aging, the DPS examines the clinical expression of dementia after onset and the impact of genetic and environmental factors on progression.

“DPS is unique as it is one of only a few population-based studies of dementia progression in the world,” said Tschanz. “We have been fortunate to enroll participants early in the course of their dementia. Because participants were also participants of the Cache County Study, we have access to life-time risk factor information that preceded the onset of their illness. DPS has had wonderful participation rates from the participant as well as their caregivers.”

The DPS has discovered that over 25 percent of Cache Valley participants affected by Alzheimer’s Disease show little decline over a period of five years and that nearly 100 percent of those with dementia will experience some form of psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety over the course of their illness; participants experiencing such symptoms shortly after the onset of dementia decline at a more rapid pace compared to those who lack these symptoms at a similar point in their illness. 

Translating the results to a wider non-Cache Valley population is the ultimate goal of the project. “Because of the population basis and the rich information we are able to draw upon, what we learn from this project will more likely be representative of the ‘typical’ person who suffers from dementia,” said Tschanz. “It is also likely that the project will improve our understanding of the factors that affect progression and identify those that may be important in maintaining higher levels of functioning and independence among those suffering from the condition.”

And that is what ARRA research funds are designed to do: invest in improving the nation’s physical health, spur technological advances in science, and address the challenges of new transportation and environmental protections to provide long term economic benefits.
“USU is committed to the transparent, ethical, and responsible distribution of ARRA funds, said Jeff Broadbent, associate vice president for research at USU.  “We are using the ARRA funds we’ve received at USU for their intended purpose, and all ARRA funds we receive will be distributed following ARRA reporting guidelines.”
ARRA funding at USU has gone toward the Utah Botanical Center, the Laboratory Animal Research Center, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, and the Logan Lagoons Project, among others, to support a variety of initiative designed to improve the quality of life for citizens of Cache Valley, the state of Utah, and the nation.
ARRA specifies appropriations for a wide range of federal programs and increases or extends certain benefits under Medicaid, unemployment compensation, and nutrition assistance programs. The legislation also reduces individual and corporate income tax collections, and makes a variety of other changes to tax laws. See USU’s ARRA site ( and ( for more information.

Writer: Jacoba Poppleton,
Contact: JoAnn Tschanz,