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Religious Orders Study

The Religious Orders Study is a collaborative study with Rush and other U.S. medical centers. It involves more than 1,100 older religious clergy (nuns, priests and brothers) who have agreed to medical and psychological evaluation each year and brain donation after death. Researchers are using information from the study to discover what changes in the brain are responsible for memory and movement problems. The study also looks closely at the transition from normal functioning of the aging brain to the mild cognitive impairment that can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Funding for the Religious Orders Study by the National Institute on Aging began in 1993, and current funding will continue through June 2016. By that time, the Religious Orders Study will have up to 22 years of clinical data on more than 1,100 people and brain tissue from over 350 people. This rich and diverse resource will allow the Study to continue supporting numerous investigators. It will also offer the Alzheimer’s disease research community new opportunities to use clinical pathologic studies in novel ways to understand the complex relation between cognitive decline and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

The Religious Orders Study continues to recruit new participants from existing facilities.

Participating sites

The remarkable success of the Religious Orders Study can only be attributed to the altruism, kindness and understanding of the hundreds of nuns, priests and brothers who volunteered to join the effort to combat common neurologic problems of older people.

We are indebted to the members of the following participating sites. Their contribution to this effort is beyond measure.

  • Archdiocesan priests (Chicago, Dubuque, Iowa, and Milwaukee)
  • Benedictine monks (Lisle, Illinois, and Collegeville, Minnesota)
  • Benedictine Sisters (Erie, Pennsylvania)
  • Capuchins (Appleton, Wisconsin)
  • Christian Brothers (Chicago and Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Diocesan priests (Gary, Indiana)
  • Dominicans (River Forest, Illinois)
  • Felician Sisters (Chicago)
  • Franciscan Handmaids of Mary (New York)
  • Franciscans (Chicago)
  • Hermanas Sagrado Corazon Jesus (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (Techny, Illinois)
  • Maryknolls (Los Altos, California, and Tarrytown, New York)
  • Missionarias Catequistas Divina Providencia (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Norbertines (DePere, Wisconsin)
  • Oblate Sisters of Providence (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Passionists (Chicago)
  • Racine Dominicans (Racine, Wisconsin)
  • Salestianas de San Juan Bosco (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Santa Teresa de Jesus (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Servites (Chicago)
  • Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters (Chicago and Sinsinawa, Wisconsin)
  • Sisters of Charity, B.V.M. (Chicago and Dubuque, Iowa)
  • Sisters of the Holy Family (New Orleans)
  • Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (Des Plaines, Illinois)
  • Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (Chicago and Aurora, Illinois)
  • Sisters of St. Benedict (St. Cloud and St. Joseph, Minnesota)
  • Sisters of St. Casimir (Chicago)
  • Sisters of St. Joseph of LaGrange (LaGrange Park, Illinois)
  • Society of Divine Word (Techny, Illinois)
  • ​Trappists (Gethsemane, Kentucky, and Peosta, Iowa)