Steven G. Heeringa, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Title: Neuroscience on a Population Scale: Design, Measurement, Data Integration and Analysis

Abstract: Neuroscience has a strong research tradition that employs experimental and observational studies in laboratory settings and controlled testing and evaluation in both clinical, educational and volunteer populations. In the past two decades, there has been increasing interest in conducting population-scale epidemiological studies of early age brain development and functioning as well as later age neurological functioning including cognitive impairment, dementias and Alzheimer’s disease. The data collected in these population-based studies is not restricted to observations on neurological systems and functioning but is collected in parallel with a wide array of information on participants’ life events, medical history, social and environmental exposures, genetics and genomics. This rich array of observational data has the potential to greatly advance our understanding of how complex neurological systems develop, are modified by internal or external factors or otherwise change over the life course. The growing field of epidemiological research also presents many challenging problems in design, measurement, data integration and analysis that those of us trained in biostatistics, bioinformatics and biomathematics will be called on to help to solve.

This presentation will use two cases studies to illustrate the nature of the statistical challenges in conducting population-scale neuroscientific research, describe current best practices and outline opportunities for future research. The first case study will be the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development project (ABCD,, a 12-year longitudinal investigation of brain morphology and functional development in U.S. adolescents and teens. The second case study will focus on the challenges in design, measurement and analysis faced in special supplemental investigations of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease conducted under the auspices of the larger Health and Retirement Study (HRS, Each case study review will include a description of the specific study challenges and current solutions. The major aim of this presentation is to increase awareness of these emerging lines of research and to promote interest on the part of the next generation of statisticians and data scientists who will be called upon to advance the various methodologies that will be required to better understand complex neurological systems and how they relate to our individual attributes and the world around us.

Bio3 Seminar Series sponsored by 
Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics & Biomathematics (DBBB)

Friday, February 22 at 10:00am to 11:00am

Building D, Warwick Evans Conference Room
4000 Reservoir Road, N.W., Washington