Project Talent, Massive Cold War Era Longitudinal Study, Tackles Alzheimer's Disease in 2018

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Project Talent (, the landmark longitudinal study launched during the Eisenhower Administration, is conducting its latest follow-up study. The project began in 1960 with funding from the U.S. Office of Education and the Office of Naval Research. Project Talent has been collecting information from its 400,000 participants intermittently for 58 years.

Project Talent was designed to be "the first scientifically planned national inventory of human talents: the aptitudes and abilities of a people"i. The study assessed the aptitudes, interests, personality traits, cognition, health, home life, and aspirations of 400,000 students from public, private, and parochial schools in every state.

Researchers and funders hoped to discover how different patterns of aptitudes, interests, and personality traits might lead to success in a variety of careers. Reflecting the priorities of a nation engaged in a Cold War and shaken by the U.S.S.R.'s successful Sputnik launch, their goal was to ensure that the talents of America's young people were being effectively identified and utilized to secure the nation's place as a global superpower. In support of the study, future Vice President Hubert Humphrey declared that, "Certainly, at this time we must use all our available abilities and talents to aid our national security." Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson agreed, stating that, "It would be difficult to think of a more worthwhile undertaking than your efforts to assure that the best use is made of our nation's most valuable resource."

Current Study
Project Talent is the only large-scale, nationally representative study that tracks participants from adolescence to retirement age and beyond, presenting an incomparably rich data source. The latest follow-up study examines early determinants of later life cognitive diseases, including Alzheimer's disease in a random sample of 22,500 original participants. Researchers will examine the long-term impact of school quality and school segregation on brain health, and the impact of adolescent socioeconomic disadvantage on cognitive and psychosocial resilience. A special focus is being placed on the experiences of participants who identify as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority.

"The Project Talent follow-up data could produce important clues about the effects of schooling and socioeconomic background in the teen years on physical and cognitive health in later life," said John Haaga, director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging. "The research should help us not only to better understand Alzheimer's disease, but also to understand why many people overcame early obstacles and went on to live healthy and productive lives."

The study is being conducted by the American Institutes for Research in conjunction with researchers from Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Southern California. It is funded by the National Institutes on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health (Grant #R01AG056163 and #RF1AG056164). The most recent study to use Project Talent data was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on September 7, 2018

About the American Institutes for Research
Established in 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. Visit

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Sabine Horner


i Flanagan, John, C, Project Talent and Related Efforts to Improve Secondary Education, (Phi Delta Kappa International, Bloomington, Indiana, 1979), p.7.


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SOURCE American Institutes for Research

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