‘Nun Study’ researcher featured speaker at BU’s Health Sciences Symposium

For immediate release: March 27, 2007

BLOOMSBURG — David A. Snowdon has spent the past two decades researching Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related brain diseases among an unusual population sample – 678 nuns. Snowdon will discuss the results of his study at the 17th annual Health Sciences Symposium at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. His keynote address, “Aging with Grace: Findings from the Nun Study,” will be presented Thursday, April 10, at 7 p.m. in the Kehr Union Ballroom. The lecture is open to the public free of charge. Snowdon will also lead a workshop, “Healthy Aging: Dying Young as Late as Possible,” on Friday, April 11, at 8:45 a.m. in the Kehr Union Ballroom.

The Nun Study – one of the world’s most comprehensive neurological research projects – involved members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame religious congregation. The nuns allowed Snowdon to test them each year to track the progression of age-related diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease. All of the participants also donated their brains to scientific research after their deaths.

According to the Nun Study Web site, the nuns served as a valuable research group because of their relatively homogenous lifestyle – participants in the study were non-smokers, had the same marital status and reproductive history, had lived in similar housing, held similar jobs and had similar access to preventive and medical care. These common factors eliminated many external variables that often complicate long-term studies, according to the Web site.

Snowdon’s work has many significant implications, according to an Associated Press article. His research suggests that people who challenge themselves intellectually may be able to delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. It also suggests that a stroke or head trauma may speed the progression of Alzheimer’s in individuals who are predisposed to the disease.

Snowdon received his doctoral degree in epidemiology – the study of factors affecting the health of populations – from the University of Minnesota. He is a professor in the department of neurology in the college of medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky. Findings from the Nun Study have been featured on CNN, NBC’s “Today” and ABC News’ “Nightline.” Articles on the study have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek and National Geographic. Snowdon also wrote a book on his findings, “Aging with Grace.”

On Friday, April 11, the Health Sciences Symposium will offer a wellness fair in Kehr Union with more than 60 exhibits, demonstrations and information booths. A poster session will feature research by practitioners, undergraduate and graduate students and faculty in allied health, audiology and speech pathology, exercise science and nursing. Awards will be given to outstanding Bloomsburg University undergraduate and graduate poster presentations.

The symposium is sponsored by the department of biological and allied health sciences, and Snowdon’s lecture is part of the Provost’s Lecture Series. The Provost’s Lecture Series is made possible by support from the Community Government Association, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the Bloomsburg University Foundation and the Endowed Lecture Series.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Professional Studies, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.