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VETSA: The Vietnam Era Twin Study Of Aging

William S. Kremen, Carol E. Franz, Michael J. Lyons

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The Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (VETSA) is a longitudinal behavioral genetic study with a primary focus on cognitive and brain aging in men. It comprises a subset of over 1,200 twins from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. Like many other studies of aging, the VETSA includes many different phenotypes, but there are some key features that distinguish it from most other behavioral genetic aging studies. First, the initial assessment was conducted when all participants were middle-aged. Second, the age range of participants is narrow; all were in their 50s at the time of the initial recruitment. Third, the study includes an extensive and demanding neurocognitive test battery that was designed to provide good coverage of different cognitive abilities and avoid ceiling effects in middle-aged adults. Fourth, young adult cognitive test data (at an average age of 20 years) are available to provide a gauge of cognitive change. These features make the VETSA ideal for studying the heterogeneity of within-individual trajectories from midlife to old age, and for early detection of risk factors for cognitive decline.