Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Stacey Wood

Reader 2

Melissa Coleman

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2013 Alexandra Sheridan


Risk factors of the prison environment have been considered from a policy perspective, however little work in the field of neuroscience and neuropsychology has been done to further understand the effects that long-term incarceration have on the brain at a neuronal and cognitive level. Neurocognitive deficits in the older prison inmate population usually go undetected, thus there is a need for the precise characterization of neurocognitive impairment, its course and etiology specifically in the prison population. This study will combine cross sectional and longitudinal analysis to characterize the neurocognitive impairment in the older prison inmate population versus the non-incarcerated population while paying close attention to the effects of poor nutrition, lack of preventative healthcare, and social isolation on the neurocognitive functioning of the older inmate population. Based on previous work, it is hypothesized that lack of preventative healthcare in the prison system results in improper treatment of such health conditions as diabetes and vascular disease, each of which have been shown to increase the chances of dementia diagnosis. In addition, it is hypothesized that prison diets low in polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin B12 and high in saturated fats impair the functioning of brain regions involved in memory consolidation, retrieval and executive functioning, like the hippocampus and the frontal lobe. Furthermore, due to inadequate environmental stimulation, increased levels of anxiety, and unsatisfactory interactions with peers, it is hypothesized that social isolation decreases neurocognitive functioning in the older prison inmate population at a faster rate compared to the non-institutionalized population. Over the course of seven years, I propose that prisoners be administered the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) to measure neurocognitive impairment as well as the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) to measure levels of anxiety and proneness to anxious feelings. In addition, a phlebotomist will draw a sample of blood from each participant in order to measure their levels of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vitamin B12. In a longitudinal analysis, 400 prisoners will be monitored every other year for seven years. In the cross sectional analysis, 200 prisoners will be matched to 200 non-incarcerated individuals based on age, background and health status in order to determine the effects that poor health and environmental factors have on the neurocognitive functioning of the older inmate population versus the non-incarcerated population. Results from the longitudinal analysis and the cross sectional analysis will be analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA and regression analysis respectively.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.