Air pollution, the aging brain and Alzheimer's disease

Project goals

This five-year project, jointly funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), has the primary goal of understanding the effect of air pollution on Alzheimer's disease and the aging brain, including molecular and structural pathophysiologies, cognitive decline and dementia risk.  

The study will leverage the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) cohort data, including extensive genetic data, decades of medication histories and participant residential histories. The ACT cohort data will be combined with spatially and temporally resolved estimates of ambient concentrations of air pollution (PM2.5, O3, NOx, NO2, CO) at ACT participant residences. 

We will deploy new, low-cost air monitors in the Puget Sound area and use these new data to refine our models, while leveraging over 40 years of existing ambient air pollution monitoring data in the greater Puget Sound area.


Below is a timeline of our expected study activities over the next five years. 

Gannt chart of study activities from 2017 to 2021

Project collaborators 

The study is a collaboration between the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute and the University of Washington. The study participants enrolled in the ACT cohort have been closely followed for decades by Kaiser. The cohort consists of over 5,400 participants with autopsies having been completed for over 740 participants. 

Below is an illustration of the various types of information that havebeen collected from ACT cohort participants. Researchers from different specialties have leveraged the ACT cohort data to conduct research examining variables such as cardiovascular risk factors, physical activity, various medication uses, nutrition and blood vessels. To learn more about the ACT cohort, please visit the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Graphic illustrating size of ACT Cohort and variety of information that is collected

Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute logo
UW school of medicine logo

Project outcomes

Project results will be shared with the public through a dedicated website. Puget Sound residents can view daily concentration data for particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide through the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency website. 

Project updates


Picture of an air monitor box mounted on a pole on a roof.

We will be collecting air pollution data in about 100 sites throughout the Puget Sound region. Monitors will be out in the field for two months at a time in different seasons, to measure the variability of pollutants in different seasons. 

The photograph to the left shows one of the air pollution monitors. The monitor needs to be located outdoors in a secure location such as a backyard, behind a fence, on a roof, or on a balcony. The monitor needs to be plugged in to operate. We will deliver and pick up the equipment. Its measurements will be transferred over a cellular network to the University of Washington.

If you would like to volunteer please fill out this survey


As of December 2017, we have collected air pollution data in about 30 locations in the Puget Sound region. Please see our latest map illustrating the locations we have monitored during 2017 (in pink stars) and our fixed monitors that are co-located with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency monitors (in yellow stars).

  map of locations monitored in Puget Sound region  



As of September 2017, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has approved funding to expand and enhance the exposure assessment activities of the study by incorporating community-based participatory research (CBPR) in the Puget Sound region. If you would like to learn more about this new study, please visit Community Air Monitoring in Puget Sound (CAMPS)

Contact Us


Gail Li, MD, PhD
Principal Investigator
University of Washington
(206) 764-2485

Lianne Sheppard, PhD
Principal Investigator
University of Washington

Edmund Seto, PhD
University of Washington

Amanda Gassett, MS
Research Scientist / Project Manager 
University of Washington

Jennifer Macuiba
Research Project Manager 
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Media and Resources 

Air Pollution and Alzheimer's Research: The Ins and Outs

Group Health and UW get $13 million to study aging and the brain