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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Department of Neurology


photo of Deborah Gustafson

Deborah Gustafson, MS, PhD

Professor of Neurology

Director, NeuroEpidemiology Program
Guest researcher, Neuropsychiatric Eidemiology Research Unit (EPINEP), University of Gothenburg, Sweden; Visiting professor, Department of Health and Education, University of Skövde, Sweden


Background and Expertise:

Deborah Gustafson is a Professor at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, Department of Neurology, and Director of NeuroEpidemiology. Dr. Gustafson was first to report on a relationship between overweight and obesity and risk of Alzheimer's disease in population-based studies in Sweden. Today, she explores potential mechanisms of adipose tissue, as well as vascular and metabolic factors, in relationship to cognition, neuropsychiatric disorders and brain structure in epidemiologic studies.  In Brooklyn, New York, she is co-Principal Investigator of the Brooklyn site of the NIH-funded, multicenter MACS WIHS Combined Cohort Study: Brooklyn Clinical Research Site (MWCCS Bklyn CRS), formerly the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), for which she chairs the Aging Working Group and leads efforts in assessments of adiposity, frailty and cognition.  She also collaborates with studies in Southwest American Indian elder communities. In Sweden, she is a guest professor at the University of Skövde and co-Investigator on AGECAP, a Swedish initiative. Deborah is the recipient of grants from the National Institutes of Health, the European Union, and the Swedish Research Council. Dr. Gustafson has over 170 peer-reviewed or invited publications. She is an invited speaker at international meetings on the topics of adiposity, vascular factors, and prevention of dementia and other mental disorders in the elderly. She is an Associate Editor for Alzheimer’s & Dementia (AlzDem) and the Journal of Alzheimers Disease (JAD); Chair of the Vascular Cognitive Disorders Professional Interest Area (VPIA) for the Alzheimer’s Association; on the Executive and 2018 Program Committees of the International Society of Vascular Behavioural and Cognitive Disorders (VasCog); and member of the New York City Regional Obesity Forum (NYCROF). Deborah received her educational training from the University of Minnesota (PhD, MS and BA), held an NIH postdoctoral fellowship in Genetic Epidemiology, received docentur in Experimental Psychiatry in Sweden and was awarded the Senior Researcher position in Psychiatric Epidemiology by the Swedish Research Council.

Some relevant websites:
  • Gudmundsson, P, Andersson S, Gustafson D, Waern M, Östling S, Hällström T, Palsson S, Skoog I, Hulthen L. Depression in Swedish women: Relationship to factors at birth. Eur J Epidemiology, in press.
  • Sigström R, Östling S, Karlsson B, Waern M, Gustafson D, Skoog I. A population-based study on phobic fears and DSM-IV specific phobia in 70-year olds. J Anxiety Disorders, in press. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Olesen PJ, Gustafson DR, Simoni M, Pantoni L, Östling S, Guo X, Skoog I. Temporal lobe atrophy and white matter lesions are related to major depression over 5 years in the elderly. Neuropsychopharm, in press.
  • Quinlan P, Nordlund A, Lind K, Gustafson D, Edman Å, Wallin A. Thyroid hormones are associated with poorer cognition in MCI. Dem Ger Cog Dis, in press.
  • Mielke MM, Zandi PP, Shao H, Waern M, Östling S, Guo X, Björkelund C, Lissner L, Skoog I, Gustafson DR. The 32 year relationship between cholesterol and dementia from mid- to latelife. Neurology, in press.
  • Daborg J, Nilsson S, Sjölander A, Minthon L, von Otter M, Gustafson D, Skoog I, Blennow K, Zetterberg H. Association of the RAGE G82Spolymorphism with Alzheimer’s disease. J NeuralTrans, in press.
  • Ongaro F, Meggiolaro S, Antunono P, Gustafson D, Forloni GL, Albani D, Gajo GB, De Angeli S, Zanardo A Siculi M, Siculi G, Muffato G, Gava N, Regini C. Factors related to disability: Evidence from the “Treviso Longeva (TRELONG) Study. Arch Gerontol Geriatr, 2010 Jun 8. [Epub ahead of print].
  • Sacuiu S, Gustafson D, Sjögren M, Guo X, Östling S, Johansson B, Skoog I. Secular changes in cognitive predictors of dementia and mortality in 70-year-olds, Neurology, in press.
  • Östling S, Gustafson D, Börjesson-Hanson A, Waern M. Psychotic symptoms in a population based sample of 85-year-olds with dementia. J Geriatric Psych Neurol, in press.
  • Hanson A, Waern M, Gustafson D, Östling S, Skoog I. Prevalence of mental disorders in a population sample of 95-year-olds. Am J Geriatric Psychiatry, in press.
  • Guerreiro R, Gustafson D, Hardy J. The genetic architecture of Alzheimer's disease: Beyond APP, PSENs, and APOE. Neurobiol Aging, PMID: 20594621, in press.
  • Johansson L, Waern M, Gustafson D, Östling S, Bengtsson C, Guo X, Skoog I. Mid-life stress and risk of dementia: a 35-year longitudinal population study. Brain, 2010; doi:10.1093/brain/awq116.
  • von Otter M, Landgren S, Nilsson S, Zetterberg M, Celojevic D1, Bergström P, Minthon L, Bogdanovic N, Andreasen N, Gustafson DR, Skoog I, Wallin A, Tasa G, Blennow K, Nilsson M, Hammarsten O, Zetterberg H. Nrf2-encoding NFE2L2 haplotypes influence disease progression but not risk in Alzheimer's disease and age-related cataract. Mechanisms of Aging and Development, in press.
  • von Otter M, Landgren S, Nilsson S, Lundvall C, Minthon L, Bogdanovic N, Andreasen N, Gustafson DR, Skoog I, Wallin A, Håkansson A, Nissbrandt H, Zetterberg M, Tasa G, Blennow K, Zetterberg H. Kinesin light chain 1 gene haplotypes in three conformational diseases. Neuromol Med, in press.
  • Jedel E, Waern M, Gustafson D, Landén M, Eriksson E, Holm G, Nilsson L, Lind, A.-K., Janson PO, Stener-Victorin E. Anxiety and depression symptoms in women with polycystic ovary syndrome compared with controls matched for body mass index. Hum Repro, in press.
  • Guo X, Pantoni L, Simoni M, Gustafson D, Lissner L, Björkelund C, Bengtsson C, Skoog I. Blood pressure components and changes in relation to white matter lesions: A 32-year prospective population study. Hypertension, in press.
  • Östling S, Gustafson D, Waern M. Psychotic and behavioural symptoms in a population-based sample of very elderly subjects. Acta Psychiatr Scand, in press.
  • Zylberstein DE, Lissner L, Björkelund C, Mehlig K, Thelle DS, Gustafson D, Östling S, Waern M, Guo X, Skoog I. Midlife Homocysteine and Late-life Dementia. A 35 year follow-up of the Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg, Neurobiol Aging, in press.
  • Sigström R, Skoog I, Sacuiu S, Karlsson B, Fredén Klenfeldt I, Waern M, Gustafson D, Östling S. The prevalence of psychotic symptoms and paranoid ideation in a non-demented population sample of 70- 82 year olds. Int J Ger Psychiatry, in press.
  • Gudmundsson P, Skoog I, Waern M, Blennow K, Zetterberg H, Rosengren L, Gustafson D. Is there a CSF biomarker profile related to depression in elderly women? Psych Res, in press.
  • Sacuiu S, Gustafson D, Johansson, B, Thorvaldsson V, Berg S, Sjögren, M, Guo X, Östling S, Skoog, I. The pattern of cognitive symptoms predicts time to dementia onset. Alz Dementia, in press.
  • Gustafson DR, Melchior L, Eriksson E, Sundh V, Blennow K, Skoog I. The ACE Insertion Deletion polymorphism relates to dementia by metabolic phenotype, APOE_4, and age of dementia onset. Neurobiol Aging, 2010;31:910-6.
  • Gustafson DR, Bäckman K, Waern M, Östling S, Guo X, Zandi P, Mielke MM, Bengtsson C, Skoog I. Adiposity indicators and dementia over 32 years in Sweden. Neurology, 2009;73: 1559.
  • Karlsson B, Fredén Klenfeldt I, Sigström R, Waern M, Östling S, Gustafson D, Skoog I. Prevalence of social phobia in non-demented elderly. A population study from Gothenburg, Sweden. Am J Ger Psychiatry, 2009;17:127-35.
  • Beckman N, Waern M, Gustafson D, Skoog I. Sex at seventy: Secular trends in sexual behaviour in 70-year-olds in 1971 and 2001. The H70 Birth Cohort Study in Gothenburg, Sweden. Br Med J, 2008;337:a279.
  • Simoni S, Pantoni L, Pracucci G, Palmertz B, Guo X, Gustafson D, Skoog I. Prevalence of CT detected cerebral changes in an elderly population of Gothenburg, Sweden. Acta Neurol Scand,2008;118:260-7.
  • Whitmer R, Gustafson D, Barrett-Connor E, Haan M, Gunderson E, Yaffee K. Central obesity in midlife and risk of dementia more than 2 decades later. Neurology, 2008, 71:1057-64.
  • Mehlig K, Guo X, Gustafson D, Östling S, Waern M, Skoog I, Lissner L. Alcohol intake and dementia. Am J Epidemiol, 2008;167: 684-691.
  • Zetterberg M, Landgren S, Andersson ME, Palmér MS, Gustafson DR, Skoog I, Minthon L, Thelle DS, Wallin A, Bogdanovic N, Andreasen N, Blennow K, Zetterberg H. Association of complement factor H Y402H gene polymorphism with Alzheimer’s disease, Am J Med Genetics, 2008;147B:720-6.
  • Wong SS, Boushey C, Novotny R, Gustafson D. Evaluation of an computerized food frequency questionnaire that estimates calcium intakes of multiethnic youth. J Amer Diet Assoc, 2008; 71:416-419.
  • Gustafson DR, Karlsson C, Skoog I, Rosengren L, Lissner L, Blennow K. Mid-life adiposity factors relate to blood-brain barrier integrity in late life. J Intern Med 2007;262:643-50.
  • Börjesson-Hanson A, Gustafson D, Skoog I. Five-year mortality in relation to dementia and cognitive function in 95-year-olds, Neurology, 2007;69:2069-75.
  • Gudmundsson P, Skoog I, Waern M, Blennow K, Palsson S, Gustafson D. The relationship between cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers and depression in elderly women. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 2007;15:832-838.
  • Gustafson D, Skoog I, Rosengren L, Zetterberg H, Blennow K. Cerebrospinal fluid _-amyloid 1-42 may predict cognitive decline in older women. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2007;78:461-464.
  • Henningsson S, Annerbrink K, Olsson M, Allgulander C, Andersch S, Sjödin I, Gustafson D, Skoog I, Norrback K, Adolfsson R, Eriksson E, Westberg L.. The Arg441His polymorphism in the tryptophan hydroxylase 2 gene in Sweden. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2007;144:816-7.
Book Chapters:
  • Skoog I, Gustafson D. Update on hypertension and Alzheimer’s Disease. Neurological
  • Research, in press.
  • Gustafson D, Skoog I. Control of vascular risk factors. In: L-O Wahlund, T Erkinjuntti, S Gauthier (eds) Vascular dementia in clinical practice, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Invited Papers:
  • Gustafson DR. Adiposity hormones in dementia. J Neurol Sci, in press.
  • Luchsinger JA, Gustafson D. Adiposity and Alzheimer’s disease. J Alz Dis, 2010;16:693-704.
  • Luchsinger JA, Gustafson D. Adiposity and Alzheimer’s disease. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2009;12:15-21.
  • Gustafson D. A life course of adiposity and dementia. Eur J Clin Pharmacol, 2008;585:163-75.
Online Education:
  • Gustafson, D. (2010), "Vascular factors in Alzheimer's disease", in Hardy, J. (ed.), Alzheimer's Disease: The Biomedical & Life Sciences Collection, Henry Stewart Talks Ltd, London (online at


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