Perspectives on the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study 

​The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) of aging, cardiovascular disease and cognitive performance has had its home in the Department of Psychology at the University of Maine since 1976. Participants in the study are persons from the entire adult age-span living in the communities represented by Central New York. One must follow longitudinal study subjects wherever they go, and thus the MSLS now includes former residents of Central New York who live in Maine and many other states. The longitudinal study paradigm (following the same individuals at prescribed intervals over time) is the ideal design for the study of aging.

The first studies were performed in 1974 in collaboration between Merrill F. Elias (Syracuse University) and Professor of Medicine, David H.P. Streeten at what is now State University of New York Health Sciences Center, Syracuse New York.  Grant support from the National Institute on Aging for this study was transferred from Syracuse University to the University of Maine in 1977. The data analysis and control center resides at the University of Maine, but data collection has always involved the Central New York residents who entered the study at its inception in 1974. Hence the study was labeled the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study.

Professors Merrill Elias and Michael Robbins have been principal and co-principal investigators respectively throughout the 40 years of MSLS presence at the University of Maine. Professor Elias is a neuropsychologist and a cardiovascular epidemiologist and Professor Robbins brings extensive expertise in social psychology, aging and health psychology to the project. In 2018 Assistant Professor Fayeza Ahmed, joined the study as its first Associate Director and brings additional expertise in aging, health, and neuropsychology.

While at Syracuse University, Professor Elias (PI), Professor of Medicine David H.P. Streeten (co-PI) wrote the initial grant application resulting in support for the collection of baseline data and subsequent grants supporting the longitudinal phase of the study.  The study was initially funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and subsequently transferred to the University of Maine where it received funding from NIA and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of NIH for 36 years.

Supplementary funding from these sources allowed the MSLS researchers to collaborate with the Framingham Heart Study personnel on many investigations and published papers. In 1990 the MSLS received a Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) award from the NIA and in 2000 it expanded from a study of hypertension (high blood pressure) and cognitive functioning to a study of cardiovascular disease risk factors and cognitive functioning.

The MSLS has a rich data base. There are seven longitudinal waves of data available for over 1000 community participants and cross-sectional data are available for 2,472 study participants. These data include risk factors for cardiovascular disease, data on cardiovascular disease, clinical cognitive performance measures, and personality and lifestyle measures.  Recent waves of the study include many psychosocial variables, demographic variables, information on medications, and extensive data on cardiovascular risk factors and events such as diabetes, stroke, obesity, smoking, homocysteine, APOE-e4 genotype, nutrition, and physical activity.

The study has involved collaborations at the University of Oxford, the University of Birmingham, England, the University of South Australia, Luxemburg Institutes of Health, Temple University, the University of Delaware, the University of Virginia and the University of Southern California, among other US institutions.

At this point in time over 150 peer-reviewed publications have resulted from this study, 24 employing Framingham Heart Study data in collaboration with Framingham Heart Study investigators.

Professors Elias and Robbins are collaborating professors in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering and offer laboratory experience in the cardiovascular epidemiology of aging and cognition.

The MSLS data are available to University of Maine faculty and students for research and to investigators at other institutions who are approved by the study directors and MSLS research committee and meet NIH and University of Maine requirements for research. Contact Merrill F. Elias ( or Fayeza Ahmed (