Maastricht Aging Study
on the determinants of adult cognitive development
Aging of cognitive abilities
MAAS is devoted to the age-related decline of memory and other cognitive functions in normal people and the factors that may be involved in this process. What determines a decline in memory function? Why do some individuals show a greater decline than others? Over the past years, a host of factors, including biological, medical, psychological and social variables, have been proposed to have an impact on adult cognitive development. MAAS tries to study these factors in an integrative way. This can be achieved only by studying large numbers of normal healthy adults of all ages and by monitoring them for several years.
Pathological cognitive aging
Some participants who were normal and healthy at the first measurement point eventually showed abnormalities. For this reason, MAAS intended to perform case-finding studies of pathological aging, involving subjects with well-documented histories of premorbid functioning. The longitudinal phase of MAAS focussed on prodromes of dementia (more specifically, dementia of the Alzheimer type or vascular dementia), and other kinds of psychopathology, such as depression.
A combination of cross-sectional and longitudinal research projects
Different individuals age in different ways. The decline may be sudden or gradual, mild or disabling, and may occur at different ages. The core study of MAAS involves the collection of information about individual patterns of cognitive aging. Data in MAAS were collected in nearly 1,900 participants by means of postal surveys, questionnaires and laboratory assessments. The biomedical, psychological, and sociodemographical information can be related to the outcome of extensive neuropsychological assessments. Four consecutive panel studies have been performed (referred to as A1 to A4), each involving 440 to 480 individuals, stratified for age in 12 discrete age groups. In addition, several side-arm studies were done that were linked to the main study, involving dedicated experiments with smaller numbers of participants. From 2019 onwards, a 25 year follow-up will be performed in all participants.
Results obtained so far have highlighted the role of specific health variables, such as diabetes, depressed mood, and exposure to neurotoxic substances that accelerate the cognitive aging process. Identified protective factors related to 'cognitive reserve' were a high level of educational attainment and both a rich social and professional environment. Cognitive abilities were strongly associated with sensory function (vision and hearing), in both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies.
Several findings have been and will be explored further in dedicated intervention studies aimed at the promotion of successful cognitive aging, e.g. in memory and goal management training programs for older adults.
More information about MAAS can be found in the 'Downloads' section, where the introductory chapters of the 1995 MAAS-book can be obtained. Also, a more detailed description of the participant status at the different follow-up measurements can be found on the website of the Integrative Analysis of Longitudinal Studies of Ageing (IALSA) network here.
© 2018 The Maastricht Aging Study - MAAS
MAAS is a longitudinal study into the determinants of cognitive aging. It has been ongoing since 1991 and a new project will start in April 2017.