Perspectives on the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study 

The White House in Fayetteville, NY, where study participants were tested for a number of years when the MSLS was based  in Syracuse. 

Syracuse

Downtown Syracuse, New York

The University of Maine Campus, Orono, Maine

Michael Robbins, Phd, Co-director of the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, and Standing: Merrill F. (Pete) Elias, PhD, MPH, principal investi­gator of the Maine-Syracuse Longi­tudinal Study. Professor Elias and Professor David H.P. Streeten, MD, were founding investi­gators of the MSLS which began in Syra­cuse, NY in 1974.

Welcome to The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) website. Here you will find a complete history and description of the study, biographies of the investigators and collaborators, and several ongoing discussion forums based on findings and controversies derived from our research. The website serves as a vehicle for bringing together continually updated references to published manuscripts, news release to the public, helpful notes and articles for investigators using the MSLS data sets.

 Once the site is well underway, we will go beyond what can be found in journals and books by providing previously unpublished information on historical events related to the course of the study and the challenges, some dramatic and some subtle, that faced the investigators over the course of the MSLS.

Future editions of this website material will include explanations of procedural changes in the study over time because many of these nuances simply are not permitted within the constraints of formal publication. There has been no formally published monograph of the study, and thus this site provides the essence of such a monograph and is circulated at no cost. Most importantly, persons interested in the MSLS may comment on any aspect of the study, including study design, specific papers emerging from the study, and more broadly, issues and challenges of longitudinal studies in general.

The MSLS began in Syracuse, New York in 1974 as a single cross-sectional study of hypertension and cognition supported by the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health. The first longitudinal data collection, directed from the University of Maine, began in 1978 and continued on for an additional 35 years. Over time, the MSLS evolved beyond the study of hypertension and cognition to include investigations of multiple cardiovascular risk factors and diseases and nutrition in relation to cognitive function and, eventually, studies of cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive performance in relation to stiffness of the coronary arteries.

From the beginning, the MSLS has been continuously supported by research grants from the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH). Data collection and formal support to the University of Maine ended in 2012. Nevertheless, the study has continued in an intense data analyses and publication phase. It will continue on this path as long as there is interest in using the data. Support for this post data collection stage has been provided in part by the University of Maine and via grant support to collaborating investigators.

The University of Maine has proprietary rights to the MSLS longitudinal data, has provided university website pages that include short descriptions of the project, and has released a great many news reports of the various studies conducted. A short, but concise, synopsis of the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study may be found on the University of Maine faculty homepage of Merrill F. “Pete” Elias: www.umaine.edu/psychology/faculty/merrill-f-elias/msls-description/

Why then do we need a web site? The answer is that the history of the study needs to be presented in a more coherent and sequential historical format than can be provided by the bits and pieces of a study as they are reported on university websites or in scientific papers and news articles. There are two important reasons: (1) the study needs a vehicle for its investigators to exchange information quickly; (2) it needs a human face. Traditionally, the history of a long-term study does not tell the story of the individuals who made it happen and who met the challenges they encountered along the way, i.e., the need to stay consistent over the years with respect to core data collection and yet adapt to new technologies, how to deal with the necessity of medical treatment (which confounds the natural evolution of cardiovascular disease) and, perhaps most importantly, how to retain busy study participants who change jobs, retire and move away from data collection centers.

Essentially our website has four goals: to tell you the story behind this project, to discuss unique aspects of the investigation and its potential implications for clinical practice, to encourage discussion of the various challenges and solutions to problems encountered in longitudinal analysis, and to exchange information needed to use the data base successfully.

 We invite discussion of the MSLS (via the links to forums) by its participants, its investigators and all others who are interested in studies of cardiovascular disease and cognitive performance. Comments will be published on the site once screened for appropriateness of the content with regard to ethics, scientific and clinical relevance.


Merrill F. Elias, PhD, MPH
Principal Investigator and Director, MSLS