Advanced Psychometrics Methods in Cognitive Aging Research
September 13-September 18, 2015

Measuring and Modeling Early Cognitive Decline

Applications have been reviewed, and notifications were sent out on March 23, 2015. If you applied and have not heard from us please email Dan Mungas (

2015 Conference Overview

The 12th annual conference on the application of modern psychometric methods to measurement issues in cognitive aging research will be held September 13-September 18, 2015 at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories in the San Juan Islands, WA.

The Advanced Psychometric Methods Workshop at Friday Harbor Laboratories is an NIH/NIA-funded conference that provides didactic and applied research experiences (work groups) that support the development of expertise to advance science in the area of cognitive aging.

The theme of the 2015 conference will be "Measuring and Modeling Early Cognitive Decline ". There is growing evidence that cognitive changes associated with common diseases of aging are caused by brain injury that may be developing for decades prior to the onset of clinical symptoms. Identifying the earliest cognitive changes of diseases of aging and discriminating them from normal cognitive aging in the absence of brain pathology is critical for diagnosis and intervention to prevent irreversible brain injury, monitoring disease progression and response to treatment, and establishing prognosis for future cognitive health and decline.

Participation in the FHL Advanced Psychometric Methods Workshop is by invitation and by competitive application. Space and the conference format limit the number of participants to approximately 50. Participants are encouraged from all levels (graduate students, post-docs, junior faculty, mid and senior faculty). Expertise in psychometrics, statistics, or other quantitative sciences is not a prerequisite, but a commitment to cognitive aging research is.

Conference Description

The 2015 meeting will be chaired by Dan Mungas and Bruce Reed. Datasets will include the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), the Religious Orders Study (ROS) and Memory and Aging Project (MAP) from Rush University, and the Framingham Heart Study.

The overarching goal of the 2015 meeting will be to characterize cognitive trajectories in the transition from normal cognitive aging to pathological cognitive decline. Specific objectives will include:

1) Model cognitive change in relation to age and biomarkers of brain disease

2) Identify cognitive domains that are most sensitive to changes associated with specific diseases

3) Evaluate measurement parameters that maximize sensitivity for detecting disease related changes in cognition

We will use latent variable methods to characterize and evaluate differential sensitivity of domains of cognition to ADNI biomarkers, neuropathology indices from the Rush studies, and future cognitive decline and dementia in Framingham. We will emphasize sensitivity to early/mild abnormalities of biomarkers and neuropathology and will develop and test analogous models across the three datasets. Cognitive measurement models will be incorporated into longitudinal models of cognitive decline to identify cognitive variables that are responsive to brain changes and predictive of future development of dementia.

As in the previous conferences, the workshop will be organized around workgroups that will perform analyses related to scientific manuscripts. Our goal will be to substantially complete analyses during the week and then organize the workgroups for further interactions to complete the manuscripts. Workgroups proposed for this meeting will address the following research questions:

  • Dynamic sequencing of disease related brain changes and cognition.
  • Differentiating normative and pathological aging cognitive trajectories.
  • Identifying best cognitive predictors of brain changes associated with diseases of aging.
  • Variability in cognitive test performance as an indicator of progressive brain disease.
  • Examining how measurement methods and psychometric characteristics affect test validity for: 1) measuring disease related change, 2) predicting progression of biomarkers, 3) predicting neuropathology, and 4) predicting rate of clinical progression and rate of cognitive decline.
Workgroups and plans for data analysis will be further developed as the meeting approaches. We welcome ideas from applicants about scientific and analytic goals for workgroups for this meeting.

This will be an intense, four-day conference (Monday, September 14 - Thursday, September 17). Travel in will be on Sunday, September 13 with dinner and an introductory meeting Sunday evening. Travel out will be on Friday, September 18.

2015 Conference Participants

This will be a relatively small but intense conference that will include about 50 participants. In addition to invited speakers and scientific leaders, there will be a competitive application process. We seek diversity in substantive and methodological expertise of participants so that the conference promotes learning for all participants and establishes an informal network that will enhance research on cognitive changes associated with aging. Training of early career investigators is an important goal and we encourage applications from promising graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, and junior faculty who are developing research programs. Senior scientists who are interested in developing new research skills also are welcomed.

This conference is supported by a conference grant from the National Institute on Aging (R13 AG030995) that began in 2008 and extends through 2017. We will be able to provide full support for travel, lodging, meals and conference fees for many attendees. We may be able to consider additional attendees who will need to provide their own funding. Anticipated costs for professionals (including lodging, meals, conference and facility fees) are about $700, and for undergraduate and graduate students are about $500. These cost estimates do not include the expense of travel to and from Seattle.

Applications for 2015

We are now accepting applications for the 2015 meeting. We are particularly interested in individuals who will learn new skills that will be incorporated into their future research. In previous years we have had an increasingly competitive pool of applicants, and due to limited space, we were unable to include many talented applicants who in our view would have made important contributions to the Workshop. The application process involves completing a brief application form 2015 application and submitting it along with a current CV or NIH Bio. Applications will be due by February 23, 2015, and should be emailed to Elizabeth Sanders ( Notification of acceptance will occur by March 23, 2015. Please contact Elizabeth if you have questions about the application process.

Friday Harbor Laboratories

The Friday Harbor Laboratories are located on San Juan Island, part of an archipelago that lies between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The 484-acre tract of land on which the Laboratories are situated, and the marine waters of the region in general, are biological preserves. We will stay in the dorm rooms (or in hotels in town) and eat in the rustic dining hall at the harbor shore. Extra-curricular activities on the island include walks/runs on the trails that weave through the forests on the island, whale watching, kayaking, and beach combing. The Friday Harbor facilities are spartan; lodging is in simple dormitory rooms with shared bathroom facilities, and while the food is excellent, dining is cafeteria style. This is not a resort, but the setting is beautiful and very conducive to informal and productive interaction. The town of Friday Harbor may be reached by scheduled air service from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, scheduled seaplane service from downtown Seattle, and by Washington State Ferries from Anacortes, about 70 miles north of Seattle. We will provide transportation from the Seattle airport to Friday Harbor via vans and ferries for conference participants.

Psychometric Workshop Program Committee

Paul K Crane MD, MPH, University of Washington
Laura Gibbons PhD, University of Washington
M. Maria Glymour, SD, University of California, San Francisco
Alden Gross, PhD, Johns Hopkins University
Richard N. Jones ScD, Brown University
Jennifer Manly PhD, Columbia University
Dan Mungas PhD, University of California, Davis
Bruce Reed PhD, University of California, Davis


If you have questions, please contact Dan Mungas ( or Bruce Reed (

Mission Statement

The overall mission of the “Advanced Psychometric Methods for Cognitive Aging Research” conference series is to promote the use of state of the art psychometric and related data analytic methods in cognitive aging research. Specific objectives are:

1) expose developing and established researchers in cognitive aging to modern psychometric techniques

2) expose experts in psychometric theory and methods to the practical and theoretical concerns of cognitive aging research

3) encourage collaborative research and production of manuscripts based on the interactions of researchers, psychometricians, and statisticians during these conferences.

Conference participants have diverse backgrounds in terms of level of training, experience, areas of expertise, gender and ethnicity. Each conference is organized around an existing dataset from studies that have been highly influential in cognitive aging research. Each meeting includes didactic training on advanced psychometric and statistical methods relevant to these studies, and a major part of the program will be devoted to data analyses that address specific scientific hypotheses relevant to the parent studies. Workgroups continue to interact after the conference to follow these analyses to completion of scientific manuscripts.

Didactic training addresses basics of item response theory, latent variable modeling, and other data analytic methods relevant to the studies and data sets being used. More in depth mentored experience in using these methods is provided during the workgroups. Diversity in substantive and methodological expertise of participants will be emphasized so that the conference promotes learning for all participants and establishes an informal network to enhance research on cognitive changes associated with aging.