80,000 children sit the same test
On June the first 1932 over 87,000 Scottish school children sat down and did the same test of cognitive ability - the Moray House Test. All children in school that day who were born in 1921 did the test, making this study unique; this is the only time a whole nation born in the same year has sat the same test.
The test was organised by the Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE) who wanted to use it improve the curriculum and teaching practice. All the test papers and records were kept.
A unique chance to track the effects of ageing
In 1997 the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen began working with the SCRE. They wanted to find people who had sat the test the first time around; here was an opportunity to retest individuals, using exactly the same test some sixty five years later. It is very rare to have information about peoples' abilities as youngsters from the earlier part of the 20th century, and to be able to compare their results provides a unique insight into the process of ageing.
The Lothian 1921 Birth Cohort Study
This study was set up to find people who had sat the test in 1936 and to re-test them as adults. The participants were invited to a party in the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms in 2001, with over 500 people attending. By the end of 2001 around 550 people had been found and retested. Most of the people in the study live in or around Edinburgh, but a few travelled to take part, from as far away as Canada.
How were they tested in adulthood?
As well as sitting exactly the same Moray House Test they took in 1936, the test subjects were given some additional physical tests including blood pressure and lung capacity. They were also asked to provide information about their education, work and health, as well as questions about their hobbies, interests and level of satisfaction with their lives.
What results have come from the study?
The study has been cited in a wide number of academic papers. The subjects of these papers have been wide ranging, including studies in diabetes, neurobiology of ageing, tooth loss, bipolar disorder, genetics and addiction.