Merrill Elias


Purdue University, Experimental Psychology, MS, PhD (1963), Duke University Center for Aging and Human Development, post-doctoral (1971) , Allegheny College, BA (1960), Boston University School of Public Health, Biostatistics and Epidemiology, MPH (1996)


Professor or Psychology, University of Maine, 1977 to present. Cooperating professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (2008-   ); PhD, Experimental Psychology, Purdue University (1963), MPH, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health (1966). Fellow, American Psychological Association, Society of Psychosomatic Medicine, American Heart Association Councils on High Blood Pressure and Epidemiology. Research support: NSF, NIH, NATO. Framingham Heart Study Investigator (1994- ).  Director, Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study.

Research Interests

Laboratory of Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Aging and Neuropsychology

My research combines interests in cognitive functioning and cardiovascular epidemiology. My major research activity focuses on the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS). Beginning at Syracuse University in 1975 and moving to the University of Maine in 1977, the MSLS has continued uninterrupted for more than 33 years thanks to support from the National Institute on Aging (NIH) and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NIH).  This community-based study offers students and faculty opportunities for archival data analysis focusing on relations among newly recognized and traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cognitive performance across the adult lifespan. Some examples of variables in the data base are as follows: blood pressure, diabetes, blood glucose levels, adiposity, depression, anxiety, stroke, cardiovascular disease, homocysteine, lipids, ApoE e4, arterial stiffness (indexed by pulse wave velocity), smoking, alcohol consumption, chocolate consumption vitamin B12, vitamin B6, folate, functional disability, activities of daily living, stroke and dementia history.  The MSLS offers longitudinal and cross-sectional data on these risk factors and an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests. Among our collaborators are faculty at the University of Maine, Boston University, the University of Virginia, the University of Southern California, Oxford University (UK), the University or Birmingham (UK) and Australian National University, the Nutrition Centre University of South Australia, and the Luxembourg National Institute of Health. While much of our work focuses on cognitive performance outcomes, biological outcome studies are also part of our effort, i.e. studies of food preferences and patterns, metabolic syndrome, and arterial stiffness and visual acuity. Our new research effort, led by GSBSE student Cara Sullivan, is relating visual acuity to cognitive tasks that place demands on visual spatial abilities and those that do not require vision with controls for cardiovascular diseases that affect visual acuity such as kidney disease and diabetes mellitus.

Selected Publications

  • Elias, M. F. & Goodell, A. L. (2019). Setting the record straight for two heroes in hypertension: John J. Hay and Psul Dudley White. Journal of Clinical Hypertension. 21: 1429-14
  • Crichton, G. E., Bogucki, O. E., & Elias, M. F. (2019). Dairy food intake, diet patterns, and health: Findings from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study. International Dairy Journal, 91, 64-70.
  • Elias, M. F., Torres, R. V., & Davey, A. (2019). Carotid artery blood flow velocities and cognitive performance: Forecasting cognitive decline [Commentary]. American Journal of Hypertension, 32, 237-239.
  • Elias, M. F., Tores, R. V., & Davey, A. (2018). Diastolic blood pressure, not just systolic blood pressure, is related to cerebral measures in middle age: Implications for prospective studies [Commentary]. American Journal of Hypertension, 31, 1263-1265. doi: org/10.1093/ajh/hpy125
  • Haigh, E. A., Bogucki, O. E., Dearborn, P. J, Robbins, M. A., & Elias, M. F. (2018). Depressive symptoms prospectively predict cardiovascular disease among older adults. Journal of Health Psychology. doi: 10.1177/1359105318782375 [Epub ahead of print]
  • Elias, M. F., Wade, A. T., Crichton, G. E. (2018).  Yogurt Intake and risk of cardiovascular disease among Hypertensive Individuals: Is it Time for a Clinical Trial? American Journal of Hypertension, hpy086, 21 Mat 2018
  • Elias, M. F., Torres, R. V, Davey, A.   (2018). Is the measurement of cognition in clinical trials of lowering blood pressure state-of-the art?  (Accepted for publication, American Journal of Hypertension.; 31(6 ); 631-642.  doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpy033.
  • Elias, M. F., Torres, R. V., & Davey, A. (2018).  Parameters of left ventricular mass and dementia.  Moving the literature forward.  Peer Reviewed Editorial. Hypertension. Hypertension.71, 411-412  DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.117.10371
  • Torres, R. V., Elias, M. F., Crichton, G. E., Dore, G. A., & Davey, A. (2017). Systolic orthostatic hypotension is related to lowered cognitive function: Findings from the Maine-Syracuse Study. Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 19, 1357-1365doi: 10.1111/jch.13095
  • Elias, M. F., & Torres, R. V. (2017). The renaissance of heart rate variability as a predictor of cognitive functioning. Commentary. American Journal of Hypertension, 31, 21-23. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpx150 [Peer reviewed Editorial]
  • Elias, M. F., Crichton, G. E., Dearborn, P. J., Robbins, M. F., & Abhayaratna, W. P. (2017). Associations between type 2 diabetes mellitus and arterial stiffness: A prospective analysis based on the Maine-Syracuse Study. Pulse, 5, 88-98. doi: 10.1159/000479560
  • Dore, G. A., Elias, M. F., Crichton, G. E., & Robbins, M. A. (2017). Age modifies the relation between intraindividual measurement-to-measurement variation in blood pressure and cognitive function: the Maine-Syracuse Study. Journal of Hypertension, 35. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000001510
  • Elias, M. F., & Torres, R. V. (2017). Delayed response to antihypertensive medication: A harbinger of stroke, heart failure, and vascular disease. Editorial. Hypertension, 70, 30-31doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.117.09306 [Peer reviewed editorial]
  • Elias, M. F., Torres, R. V., & Davey, A. (2017). Intensive blood pressure control improves cognitive performance: Pushing the envelope cum judicia. American Journal of Hypertension, 30, 556-558. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpx043.[Peer Reviewed Editorial[
  • Elias, M. F., Torres, R. V., & Davey, A. (2017). Albuminuria and cognitive performance: New evidence for consideration of a risk factor precursor model from the Maastricht Study. Editorial. American Journal of Kidney Disease, 69(2), 163-165. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2016.11.002
  • Crichton, G. E., Elias, M. F., Dearborn, P., & Robbins, M. (2017). Habitual chocolate intake and type 2 diabetes mellitus in the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study: (1975-2010): Prospective observations. Appetite, 108, 263-269.  doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.10.008
  • Dearborn, P.J., Robbins, M.A. & Elias, M.F. (2016) Challenging the “jolly fat” hypothesis among older adults: High body mass index predicts increases in depressive symptoms over a 5-year period. Journal of Health Psychology, 21, 1-11. doi: 10.1177/1359105316675209
  • Crichton, G. E., Elias, M. F., & Robbins, M. (2016). Association between depressive symptoms, use of antidepressant medication and the metabolic syndrome: The Maine-Syracuse Study. BMC Public Health, 16, 502. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3170-2
  • Crichton, G. E., Elias, M. F., Alkerwi, A., & Abhayaratna, W. (2016). Relation of habitual chocolate consumption to arterial stiffness in a community-based sample: Preliminary findings. Pulse, 4, 28-37. doi:10.1159/000445876
  • Crichton, G. E., Elias, M. F., & Alkerwi, A. (2016). Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study. Appetite, 100, 126-132.  doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.02.010
  • Crichton GE, Sullivan KJ, Elias MF. Cholesterol and cognitive functioning in persons free from stroke and dementia. In: Watson RR and de Meester F (Eds.) Handbook of Cholesterol: Biology, Function and Role in Health and Diseases 2016. Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers.
  • Elias, M. F., Torres, R. V., & Davey, A. (2016). The eye is the window to the kidney and brain. [Invited Commentary]. EBioMedicine, 5, 24-25.
  • Crichton, G. E., Elias, M. F., & Torres, R. V. (2016). Sugar-sweetened soft drinks are associated with poorer cognitive function in individuals with type 2 diabetes: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study. British Journal of Nutrition, 115, 1397-1405.doi: 10.1017/S0007114516000325
  • Alkerwi, A., Sauvegeot, N., Crichton, G. E., Elias, M. F., & Stranges, S. (2016). Daily chocolate consumption is inversely associated with insulin resistance and liver enzymes in the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors study. British Journal of Nutrition, 115, 1661-1668. doi:10.1017/S0007114516000702
  • Torres, R. V., Elias, M. F., Seliger, S., Davey, A., & Robbins, M. A. (2016). Risk for cognitive impairment across 22 measures of cognitive ability in early-stage chronic kidney disease. Nephrology, Dialysis and Transplantation. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfw005