ISSR Methodology Consultant Eric Griffith Awarded Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Eric Griffith - who specializes at ISSR in qualitative research methods and NVivo software training -  joins a growing community of UMass Amherst recipients of the Wenner-Gren Foundation's Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Under the direction of Dr. Lynnette Sievert, his dissertation research explores cross-cultural variations in Alzheimer's disease. His award-winning proposal, "A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Behavioral Variation of Alzheimer’s Disease Patients" describes the US-Mexico comparative fieldwork he will begin in October:

The goal of this project is to contribute to the anthropological understanding of neurodegenerative disease by collecting and integrating ethnographic data, neuropsychological data, and behavioral data to elucidate the extent to which Alzheimer's disease (AD) symptoms can vary from culture to culture. To accomplish this goal, two research questions will be considered: 1) Do behaviors of AD diagnosed individuals differ significantly between the US and Mexico?, and 2) Do the cultural interpretations of the behaviors of AD-diagnosed individuals meaningfully correlate with symptom severity? 

If the behaviors of those diagnosed with AD do differ significantly cross-culturally, these data can be used to identify which symptoms are not universal. It is hoped that this research will contribute to challenging or confirming ideas that neurodegenerative symptoms are entirely neurological in basis and may call into question the biological fatalism associated with AD and other similar disorders. If the behaviors do not differ significantly it suggests that socio-environmental factors have little or no effect on AD. Additionally, the possible extent to which variations in cultural attitudes about aging can lead to variations in AD symptomatology has not been rigorously defined. By examining variation in AD-associated behaviors in light of cultural conceptions of AD, this project aims to investigate whether cultural interventions could mediate AD symptoms in some individuals. 
Griffith is a PhD student in the Anthropology Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He received his B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Boston University and a M.A. in Neuropsychology from Boston University.