Project Talent looks for previous participants

Published 6:00 pm Friday, December 7, 2018

Researchers are attempting to follow up on a project involving Greater Valley Area locals who began their participation 58 years ago.

Throughout two days in the spring of 1960, the American Institutes for Research presented over 400,000 teenagers with questionnaires on their aptitudes, cognition, aspirations and home life.

A total of 7,562 Alabama students from Alabama took the survey, including a group from Five Points Colored High School.

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The students were taking place in Project Talent, the most comprehensive study of high school students ever. The initial results were used to guide the students toward appropriate career paths, and in the decades following, further surveys allowed researchers to see how the passage of time affects people of different demographics, professions and lifestyles.

“Project Talent is a longitudinal study that started in 1960 initially to look at identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses in order to help them find a career that played to their strengths,” said project director Susan Lapham. “Over the decades the study has evolved and encompasses almost every topic that you could possibly think of.”

Now, 58 years later, Project Talent researchers are sending out yet another survey that focuses on how experiences, environments and genetics affect Alzheimer’s Disease, and they are hoping for responses from those in the Valley who initially participated.

“The Project Talent generation has contributed to important research in the past five decades,” Lapham said. “Now, they have the opportunity to help us address some of the most pressing public health concerns currently facing our country.”

According to Lapham, the current survey will be done in three parts.

Stage one involves a mail-in questionnaire that gathers information on each individuals life and living situation, demographics and health are all part of stage one.

Following this, stage two and three involve a phone call and digital survey that test memory and health, respectively. If any of those who are being asked to participate don’t have access to a computer or the internet, Project Talent will send them a specialized tablet that they can use and send back.

“This is a random sample,” Lapham said.

“Only a few participants have [Alzheimer’s] so what we want to do is look at the comparison of those who have developed [it] and see if there are early life predictors or risk factors that can cause it. The purpose of this study is to combine all of the data together and then look for trends or patterns. When we report what our findings are, hopefully that will lead to better recommendations to public health.”

Project Talent researchers hope to analyze the data in spring of 2019 and present results in November, and they urge participants from Five Points to be a part of their data set.  Surveys have been sent out to those who have taken part, but anyone who has not received one is encouraged to contact Project Talent.