With emphases in lifespan development and behavioral genetics, in the Biobehavioral Research Lab we apply longitudinal and quantitative genetic models to understand variations in cognitive aging, health and longevity.


We have considered methods of measuring cognitive change, examining twin similarity and differences in change, and considering health and psychosocial correlates of change. With support from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), we have continued the investigation of cognitive decline in older Swedish adults (including SATSA, Octo-Twin, GENDER, and Harmony twin study participants) with a focus on biomarkers and gene pathways, including cholesterol and related pathways that may influence cognitive change and decline [AG028555].

In a recently NIA- funded project [AG046938A1; Reynolds, Wadsworth, MPI’s], Colorado Adoption/Twin Study of Lifespan behavioral development & cognitive aging (CATSLife), we are evaluating the unique saliency of early childhood factors to adult cognitive maintenance and change versus proximal influences and innovations that emerge across development. In this project we are conducting a new assessment to consider behavioral and cognitive change at the cusp of middle adulthood, in 1600 participants from the Colorado Adoption Project (CAP) and Longitudinal Twin Study (LTS), evaluated almost yearly from birth to early adulthood. We aim to map individual differences in growth and maintenance of cognitive abilities; evaluate and trace measured physical factors and health behaviors, biochemical markers and measured genetic pathways important to sustaining cognitive performance; and track measured environmental factors that might decrease, sustain or boost cognitive performance.


Social Contexts and Aging Outcomes

Dr. Reynolds is a member of the IGEMS consortium in part due to her long involvement with and co-directorship of the SATSA study. IGEMS is a consortia of international investigators representing longitudinal twin studies to explore the basis for the association of social factors and aging outcomes. IGEMS is a NIA-funded project that combines data from over 16,000 participants [AG037985, Pedersen]. The aims are devoted to understanding why early life adversity, and social factors, such as isolation and loneliness, are associated with diverse outcomes including mortality, and physical, emotional and cognitive health. Goals include harmonization of data across studies and extensions of work on GE interplay considering gene associations and aging trajectories across domains. A focus of the UCR site is on longitudinal methods and models of gene-environment interplay.

Early life factors and adult outcomes

Dr. Reynolds  served as a co-investigator on the project, Determinants of Behavioral Development [HD010333, Wadsworth]. This project provided for in-person assessments of the Colorado Adoption Project participants during late early-adulthood period. The goals were to test complex hypotheses regarding genetic and environmental influences on longitudinal change in cognitive and health profiles as well as early-life factors that may moderate trajectories. The UCR site focused on the application of state-of-the art models to longitudinal cognitive and physical health data with substantive goals to consider early life impacts to childhood and adult trajectories.

The new project CATSLife, described above, now combines the strengths of both adoption and twin designs using both the CAP and LTS samples to consider the early-life and proximal factors, genetic and environmental, that impact growth and maintenance of cognitive abilities from a life-course vantage.

Related projects

Related projects include studies of the interrelationships between physical health and psychosocial trajectories on later life health and longevity in the Terman Life Cycle Study [AG027001]. Mate similarity is an important but sometimes overlooked question in behavioral genetic and life course studies. Continuing work considers spouse similarity processes on dyadic marital traits, personality, health and longevity outcomes.