Vascular Illness and its Impact on Neurodegeneration
Vascular Illness and its Impact on Neurodegeneration. Co-led by Drs. Eric Smith and JoAnne McLaurin, this team includes 17 basic and clinical researchers who are working together to translate discoveries about vascular disease into therapeutic treatments for vascular cognitive impairment (VCI). In some cases, VCI is evident as a symptomatic stroke that causes paralysis or speech loss. More subtly, it shows up as concentration or memory problems that result from extended periods of hypertension (i.e. abnormally high blood pressure), metabolic syndrome, or multiple subtle strokes that appear in functional imaging scans as deficits in the brain and its blood vessels. Specifically, the team is: (1) developing a new understanding of the disease process of VCI in animal models of vascular risk and vascular disease (including testing new therapies); (2) defining brain images and blood biomarkers of the earliest VCI changes in human beings; and (3) using this information to plan clinical trials in people with early stage VCI. To learn more, click here.
Lewy Bodies, Aging, and Dementia
Lewy Bodies, Aging, and Dementia is led by Richard Camicioli, who focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Developing New Biomarkers
Developing New Biomarkers is led by Roger Dixon and Pierre Bellec. Roger Dixon leads the Victoria Longitudinal Study, which is a long-term, large-scale investigation into human aging focusing on the influences of aging changes (e.g. how changes in memory can affect lifestyle). Pierre Bellec studies functional connectivity within distributed brain networks.
Cognitive intervention, cognitive reserve and brain plasticity
Cognitive intervention, cognitive reserve and brain plasticity. Led by Dr. Sylvie Belleville, this team aims to better understand how cognitive reserve and brain plasticity protect against age-related neurodegenerative diseases, and to develop strategies to increase resilience. Specifically, they are creating and testing a cognitive training program that will support cognitive health in people with subjective cognitive decline (i.e. a self-reported perception of memory or cognition problems). The program combines training in memory and attention strategies with stimulating leisure activities (e.g. learning music, learning a second language, and playing active video games). Participants’ brain structure and function, cognition, and well-being will be measured immediately after training, and then again two years later to assess the long-term maintenance of benefits, as well as the protective effects the intervention has against age-related decline. For this study, the researchers are keen to recruit as many participants as possible with a lower level of formal education. Those individuals are known to have a higher risk of developing dementia, and are thus likely to benefit considerably from this type of intervention. In addition, the study will identify the best responders by examining whether individual characteristics - for instance, genotype, sex, or cognitive lifestyle - predict better effects.
Prevention and Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Symptoms
Prevention and Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Symptoms is led by Nathan Herrmann, Krista Lanctôt, and Dallas Seitz. Nathan Herrmann’s primary contribution to dementia research is in the area of the treatment of behavioral disturbances and cognition. Krista Lanctôt studies how dementia influences emotions and moods, and how they may be better managed. Dallas Seitz’s research examines how older adults with psychiatric disorders use health services, evaluates the safety and effectiveness of treatments for geriatric mental health conditions, and carries out knowledge translation in geriatric mental health.
Mobility, Exercise, and Cognition (MEC)
Mobility, Exercise, and Cognition (MEC) Co-led by Drs. Manuel Montero-Odasso and Louis Bherer, the MEC team focuses on the relationship between physical activity, motor performance, and cognitive decline in aging and neurodegeneration. During aging, motor and cognitive decline often interact because of the common brain networks they share. Aging-associated, or disease-driven changes in these networks therefore have consequences for motor learning and control, memory, executive functions, gait, and balance in older adults. More importantly, motor and cognitive decline are key risk factors for dementia, falls, fractures, and future disabilities. Specifically, the MEC Team is studying the interaction and expression of cognitive and motor decline during the course of neurodegenerative diseases. Their findings will then be translated into innovative exercise-based interventions. To date, MEC have had several notable accomplishments, particularly with regards to their CIHR/CCNA SYNERGIC Trial (SYNchronizing Exercises and Remedies in GaIt and Cognition). The SYNERGIC Trial is being conducted by their cross-Canada research team, and aims to identify the effects of a combination of physical, motor, and cognitive exercises on cognitive and motor decline. To learn more, visit www.ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT02808676).
Frontotemporal Dementia is led by Robin Hsiung, who examines the factors that cause dementia, and explores new lab and imaging techniques to help identify and distinguish the various types of dementia at the earliest stage. Another focus of his research is using clinical trials to learn new techniques to treat different types of dementias at different stages.