About the Research


The Beaver Dam Offspring Study-Neurocognitive Aging Study (BOSS-NCAS) aims to study cognitive and sensory changes, such as hearing loss, eye disease, and other conditions. With the help of the BOSS-NCAS scientists will also be able to investigate whether the presence of certain markers in the blood can be used to understand who is at risk for developing age-related changes in brain function and the senses (hearing, vision, smell). This information will be used to help predict future health care needs in the United Stated and might inform future prevention and treatment strategies for a wide range of age-related diseases.

BOSS Research Featured on Several Premier News Outlets 

Dr. Merten’s press release “Testing senses and motor skills in midlife may help predict later cognitive impairment” garnered 17 stories online and on broadcast. The story was picked up in Madison as well as on the Milwaukee, Rockford, Wausau and Eau Claire markets, reaching the Twin Cities, and in Chicago. This coverage reached a potential audience of approximately 10.5 million broadcast viewers and a potential audience of more 500,000 online viewers.

The research team’s work was highlighted on Wisbusiness.com, on Wsaw.com (WSAW-TV) and on seniorhousingnews.com. Local TV features include FOX 47 News at 9 (WMSN-TV), Wake Up Wisconsin (WKOW-TV) and News 3 Now at Ten (WISC-TV). Stories also aired in Wausau on WJFW-TV and  Milwaukee on CBS 58 Morning News 5am (WDJT-TV).

BOSS Research in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Featured in Press Release

The Study Team led by Dr. Merten, examined to what extent education, lifestyle factors and vascular and metabolic health in midlife were associated with the long-term increase in the blood levels of three pathological proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease and/or neurodegeneration. The press release can be found here.

Dr. Merten and Other Researchers from UW Travel to Amsterdam

Dr. Merten and other UW–Madison Alzheimer’s disease experts travel to Amsterdam for Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. Dr. Merten presented her work from the BOSS-NCAS and previous studies. More information can be found here.

Dr. Merten Featured on Dementia Matters Podcast

BOSS-NCAS’ principal investigator, Dr. Natascha Merten, was featured on Dementia Matters Podcast entitled: ”Studies Look at Generational Differences and Associations between Cognition, Sensory Changes and Blood Biomarkers.” Feel free to read the article here. The podcast can be listened to through the article link or on Spotify.

Funding Secured to Invite All Past BOSS Participants for an 18-Year Follow-Up Examination

Dr. Natascha Merten has been awarded an R01 from the National Institute on Aging to invite all past BOSS participants for an 18-year follow-up examination. This new study is called “The Beaver Dam Offspring Study-Neurocognitive Aging Study (BOSS-NCAS)-A Study on the Role of Accelerated Aging and Midlife Sensory Decline for Early Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia in Later Life. The study was funded with ~$2.5M in direct costs. More can be read here.

Dr. Natascha Merten, PhD, MS Appointed to Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences

The Department of Population Health Sciences (PHS) welcomes Dr. Natascha Merten as an assistant professor. As a psychologist (MS) and epidemiologist (PhD) by training with research interests in human aging, Dr. Merten’s research program aims to assess aging with a holistic approach through investigating general aging processes that affect multiple domains of brain aging focusing on cognitive and sensory aging.

Ancillary Pilot Study in the Dogs of BOSS Participants Started at the University of Wisconsin Vet School

Collaborator Dr. Freya Mowat has started to invite the dogs from some of the BOSS participants to study the aging senses of these dogs in her laboratory (Beaver Dam Dog Study). The results of this study will be used as pilot data for a planned federal grant application and will to contribute to the ongoing aging studies in dogs in the Mowat Laboratory.

New Lead for the EpiSense Study Team

Dr. Natascha Merten, PhD, MS has taken on the lead on research team of the previous Beaver Dam Offspring Study and will steer the study into a slightly new direction: With her strong background in psychology and neurocognition, she emphasizes the study of brain aging in the cohort. In this study phase the team aims to further understand how the senses and the brain age together over time and whether the presence of certain markers in the blood can be used to understand who is at risk for developing age-related changes in brain function and the senses (hearing, vision, smell).


Dr. Natascha Merten, PhD, MS

University of Wisconsin – Madison


Sanjay Asthana, MD, FACP, FRCP (C)

University of Wisconsin- Madison

Richard Chappell, PhD

University of Wisconsin- Madison

Yanjun (Judy) Chen, MD, PhD

University of Wisconsin- Madison

Lindsay Clark, PhD

University of Wisconsin- Madison

Sumitrajit Dhar, PhD

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Sterling Johnson, PhD

University of Wisconsin- Madison

Amanda Mravec, AuD, CCC-A

University of Wisconsin- Madison

James Pankow, PhD, MPH

University of Minnesota

Michael Tsai, PhD

University of Minnesota

Art Walaszek, MD

University of Wisconsin- Madison

The Beaver Dam Offspring Study- Neurocognitive Aging Study is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health