M. Maria Glymour, SD
Chair and Professor
Boston University School of Public Health

SD, Harvard School of Public Health
AB, University of Chicago

Research Interests
- Alzheimer's disease and related causes of cognitive aging and dementia
- Social determinants of health and health equity
- Social policies and health
- Causal inference in social epidemiology and dementia research

My research focuses on how social factors experienced across the lifecourse, from infancy to adulthood, influence cognitive function, dementia, stroke, and other health outcomes in old age. I am especially interested in education and other exposures amenable to policy interventions. The health of current cohorts of elderly individuals in the US reflect a lifetime of social exposures, including educational experiences shaped by major changes in schooling policies. Education is especially interesting because it is such a powerful predictor of health and historically, access to education has frequently been restricted based on race, gender, and other socially enforced criteria. One thread of my research examines how changes in schooling laws and school quality in the 20th century might have influenced the health and cognitive outcomes of current cohorts of elderly, including adults subject to race-based school segregation. Our results suggest that extra schooling has substantial benefits for memory function in the elderly. I have also worked on the influence of "place" on health, for example to understand the excess stroke burden for individuals who grew up in the US Stroke Belt. In a project with colleagues including Drs. Rachel Whitmer, Elizabeth Rose Mayeda, and Paola Gilsanz, we are continuing a unique multi-ethnic cohort of older adults in Northern California, with a wealth of lifecourse biological and social data to offer insight into the reasons for racial/ethnic differences in Alzheimer's and dementia risk (https://rachelwhitmer.ucdavis.edu/khandle).

A separate theme of my research focuses on overcoming methodological problems encountered in analyses of social determinants of health, Alzheimer's disease, and dementia. For many reasons, research focusing on lifecourse epidemiology as well as cognitive aging introduces substantial methodological challenges. Sometimes, these are conceptual challenges, and clear causal thinking can help! Many of these challenges are being addressed in the MELODEM (MEthods in LOngitudinal research on DEMentia) initiative, an international group of researchers focusing on analytic challenges in research on dementia and cognitive aging. MELODEM has working group phone calls on the first and third Thursdays of the month, open to all (https://sites.bu.edu/melodem/). My group works with numerous colleagues on methods to improve measurement, including crosswalking across data sets. For example, in work with Dr. Zeki Al Hazzouri, we are linking data sets with detailed information at different lifecourse periods -- e.g., childhood, early adulthood, and later adulthood -- to better evaluate long-term effects of exposures at specific sensitive ages. In work with Dr. Cathy Schaefer, Ron Krauss, and many others, we are fielding emulated trial designs in the large, diverse Kaiser Permanente Northern California cohort. This setting is exceptional for emulated trial designs because of the large size, long follow-up, and combination of high-quality clinical data plus social and genetic information for large groups of study participants.

I have advocated the use of causal directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) as a standard research tool to represent our causal hypotheses and help elucidate potential biases in proposed analyses. In other cases, the methodological problems require more analytical solutions that have been developed elsewhere in epidemiology or in other disciplines, but are rarely applied to these research questions. Instrumental variables analyses of natural or induced experiments are one promising example. Genetic variations have recently been advanced as possible instrumental variables to estimate the health effects of a wide range of phenotypes, an approach sometimes called “Mendelian Randomization.” Using genetic polymorphisms as instrumental variables could provide a very powerful tool for social epidemiology, but the inferences from such analyses rest on strong assumptions. Thus I am currently working with a team to explore approaches to evaluating the plausibility of those assumptions in applications for social epidemiology.

Students and post-doctoral fellows interested in research collaborations related to my work are welcome to send me an email directly or contact Robin Hyatt, rshyatt@bu.edu, who handles my calendar.

Health, Aging and Dementia in South Africa: A Longitudinal Study (HAALSI) -- Project 1 Dementia
06/01/2023 - 05/31/2028 (Subcontract PI)
President and Fellows of Harvard College dba Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health NIH NIA

Lifecourse health, cerebral pathology, and ethnic disparities in dementia
06/01/2023 - 05/31/2026 (Subcontract PI)
University of California, Davis NIH NIA

Community Empowerment, Vascular Risk, and ADRD Disparities: Translating Research to Public Policy
09/01/2023 - 08/31/2025 (Key Person / Mentor)
NIH/National Institute on Aging

The confluence of extreme heat cold on the health and longevity of an Aging Population with Alzheimers and related Dementia
06/01/2023 - 05/31/2025 (Subcontract PI)
President & Fellows of Harvard College on behalf of Harvard Medical School NIH NIA

Novel Designs and Methods to Remove Hidden Confounding Bias in Health Sciences
06/01/2023 - 04/30/2025 (Subcontract PI)
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania NIH NIA

Conducting program operations for RWJF's Evidence for Action research program, Year 9
06/01/2023 - 03/31/2024 (Subcontract PI)
The Regents of the University of California, San Francisco Robert Wood Johnson


Yr Title Project-Sub Proj Pubs

Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.

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  1. Gutierrez S, Meza E, Glymour MM, Torres JM. My Parent, Myself, or My Child: Whose Education Matters Most for Trajectories of Cognitive Aging in Middle Age? Am J Epidemiol. 2024 May 07; 193(5):695-706. PMID: 37116072
  2. Almeida ML, Pederson AM, Zimmerman SC, Chen R, Ackley S, Riley A, Eng CW, Whitmer RA, George KM, Peterson RL, Mayeda ER, Gilsanz P, Mungas DM, Farias ST, Glymour MM. The Association Between Physical Activity and Cognition in a Racially/Ethnically Diverse Cohort of Older Adults: Results From the Kaiser Healthy Aging and Diverse Life Experiences Study. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2024 Mar 27. PMID: 38533734
  3. Wang J, Hill-Jarrett T, Buto P, Pederson A, Sims KD, Zimmerman SC, DeVost MA, Ferguson E, Lacar B, Yang Y, Choi M, Caunca MR, La Joie R, Chen R, Glymour MM, Ackley SF. Comparison of approaches to control for intracranial volume in research on the association of brain volumes with cognitive outcomes. Hum Brain Mapp. 2024 Mar; 45(4):e26633.View Related Profiles. PMID: 38433682; PMCID: PMC10910271; DOI: 10.1002/hbm.26633;
  4. Tang AS, Rankin KP, Cerono G, Miramontes S, Mills H, Roger J, Zeng B, Nelson C, Soman K, Woldemariam S, Li Y, Lee A, Bove R, Glymour M, Aghaeepour N, Oskotsky TT, Miller Z, Allen IE, Sanders SJ, Baranzini S, Sirota M. Leveraging electronic health records and knowledge networks for Alzheimer's disease prediction and sex-specific biological insights. Nat Aging. 2024 Mar; 4(3):379-395. PMID: 38383858; PMCID: PMC10950787; DOI: 10.1038/s43587-024-00573-8;
  5. Meza E, Hebert J, Garcia ME, Torres JM, Glymour MM, Vable AM. First-generation college graduates have similar depressive symptoms in midlife as multi-generational college graduates. SSM Popul Health. 2024 Mar; 25:101633. PMID: 38434443; PMCID: PMC10905036; DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2024.101633;
  6. Chen R, Wang J, Pederson AM, Prather AA, Hirst AK, Ackley S, Hokett E, George KM, Mungas D, Mayeda ER, Gilsanz P, Haneuse S, Whitmer RA, Glymour MM. Evaluation of racial and ethnic heterogeneity in the associations of sleep quality and sleep apnea risk with cognitive function and cognitive decline. Alzheimers Dement (N Y). 2024; 10(1):e12441.View Related Profiles. PMID: 38356481; PMCID: PMC10865460; DOI: 10.1002/trc2.12441;
  7. Gutierrez S, Courtin E, Glymour MM, Torres JM. Does schooling attained by adult children affect parents' psychosocial well-being in later life? Using Mexico's 1993 compulsory schooling law as a quasi-experiment. SSM Popul Health. 2024 Mar; 25:101616. PMID: 38434444; PMCID: PMC10905038; DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2024.101616;
  8. Hayes-Larson E, Ackley SF, Turney IC, La Joie R, Mayeda ER, Glymour MM. Considerations for Use of Blood-Based Biomarkers in Epidemiologic Dementia Research. Am J Epidemiol. 2024 Feb 05; 193(3):527-535. PMID: 37846130; PMCID: PMC10911539; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwad197;
  9. Paglino E, Lundberg DJ, Wrigley-Field E, Zhou Z, Wasserman JA, Raquib R, Chen YH, Hempstead K, Preston SH, Elo IT, Glymour MM, Stokes AC. Excess natural-cause mortality in US counties and its association with reported COVID-19 deaths. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2024 Feb 06; 121(6):e2313661121.View Related Profiles. PMID: 38300867; PMCID: PMC10861891; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2313661121;
  10. Hill-Jarrett TG, Choi M, Buto PT, Miramontes S, Thomas MD, Yang Y, Kim MH, Sims KD, Glymour MM. Associations of Everyday and Lifetime Experiences of Discrimination With Willingness to Undergo Alzheimer Disease Predictive Testing. Neurology. 2024 Feb 27; 102(4):e208005. PMID: 38266219
Showing 10 of 469 results. Show More

This graph shows the total number of publications by year, by first, middle/unknown, or last author.

Bar chart showing 469 publications over 23 distinct years, with a maximum of 52 publications in 2022


2018 American Journal of Epidemiology: American Journal of Epidemiology Reviewers of the Year Award
2017 University of California, San Francisco, Academic Senate: Mentoring Award - Associate Professor Level
2016 American Journal of Epidemiology: American Journal of Epidemiology Reviewers of the Year Award
2013 Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health: Columbia University Psychiatric- Neurological Epidemiology Early Investigator Award
2012 Harvard School of Public Health: Mentoring Award
Contact for Mentoring:

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