A free teleconference series offered by USAgainstAlzheimer's Network covering a wide range of topics with leaders in the Alzheimer's community.

Alzheimer's Talks

Latest Talks

September 2014: New Approach for Speeding Recruitment for Clinical Trials

Highlights from our Alzheimer’s Talk with Dr. Michael Weiner:

Professor at the University of California, San Francisco and Founder of the Brain Health Registry, Dr. Michael Weiner has long been at the forefront of discussions about how to improve Alzheimer’s research. Here are just some of the key points he addressed in our conversation:

  1. The biggest obstacle to a cure for Alzheimer’s is the high cost of clinical trials, specifically the cost and time to recruit and screen possible participants.
  2. The Brain Health Registry hopes to help speed recruitment for clinical trials while also collecting and analyzing information on neuropsychological performance.
  3. They are looking for anyone 18 or older to sign-up.  You will answer a short questionnaire and take online neuropsychological tests (brain games).
  4. Reminder emails are sent every six months by the Brain Health Registry to come back and answer a few more questions and play another round of games.  Because memory decline can happen over many years, they hope to be able to identify subtle declines to find possible participants for clinical trials most appropriate for the particular treatment being tested.
  5. By building an online registry and administering the tests online, the Brain Health Registry is able to get information on a large number of people at a relatively low cost. In just a few months, more than 4,000 people have signed up.

Joining the Brain Health Registry is one of the easiest ways you can contribute to cutting-edge research on Alzheimer’s and other neuro-degenerative diseases. Click here to sign up right now.

If you missed the talk – or if you’d like to hear it again – you can listen to an audio playback or read a transcript of the fascinating conversation. This activity was supported by a contribution from Lilly.

August 2014: Strengthening the Resiliency of your Brain

Highlights from our Alzheimer's Talks with Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman

Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman's research at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas explores how to improve brain health and increase resilience against cognitive decline. Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

1. We've dramatically increased the human lifespan, but nothing has been done to extend our brainspan. Cognitive decline isn't an inevitable consequence of old age.

2. There are things we can all do today to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline as we age. However, evidence suggests that not all types of mental activities are equal.

3. We found that strategy-based cognitive training, which uses the frontal lobe (the area of the brain responsible for reasoning, planning, and decision-making), improved brain activity not only during the training, but at rest as well.

4. Healthy adults begin to lose about 1.5% of their brain blood flow every decade starting in their 20s. In a trial of healthy 50-75 year olds who were taught how to use high-level thinking strategies, they saw an 8-12% increase in blood flow from pre- to post-training, an increase in the speed of communication in the brain by 30%, and an increase of 15% in the white matter. This shows that through brain exercises, we can regain and build resilience as we age.

5. Individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment, after 8 hours of strategic memory advanced reasoning training over a one-month period, showed significant improvement across a spectrum of cognitive performance measures including strategic attention and immediate and delayed memory when tested two weeks after completion of training. 

6. Even without a formal training program, steps taken before old age can improve brain health and help slow the progression of dementia.

7. Avoiding multitasking, thinking deeply about topics of interest to you such as books and movies, and taking time to rest your brain are all healthy brain habits that can improve cognitive function.

Dr. Chapman's findings suggest that cognitive training and healthy brain habits have great potential for building brain resilience.

You can read more about these ideas in her book, Make Your Brain Smarter.

We're grateful to Dr. Chapman for taking the time to tell us about her research. You won't want to miss her findings, so make sure you take the time to listen to the playback or read the transcript.

This call was made possible by the generous support of Rita Hortenstine.

July 2014: A brain-protecting protein

Highlights from our Alzheimer’s Talks with Dr. Bruce Yankner.

This study led by Dr. Bruce Yankner, of the Harvard University Medical School, is a huge breakthrough in our understanding of how the brain works. Here are a few key highlights from our conversation:

  1. Those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias show significantly lower levels of a protein called the repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor (or REST protein) that normally appears in the aging brain.
  2. In lab tests and animal studies, the REST protein protected brain cells from dying when exposed to a number of age-related stresses, including the amyloid protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
  3. Yankner and his research team used a computer program to search for the primary causes of the gene changes in the aging brain, which led them to REST.
  4. Higher levels of REST were linked to a better memory in aged individuals.
  5. A key to the study is that it illustrates a novel approach to understanding neurodegenerative diseases. Instead of focusing on the negative changes that cause disease, researchers looked for weaknesses in the brain’s defenses.  The work also uniquely examines Alzheimer’s disease in the context of the aging process.
  6. Dr. Yankner’s team is conducting further research for tests to determine if the REST protein is turned on as well as possible treatments to activate the REST protein.

Understanding is critical to stopping Alzheimer’s and this is a big step forward. Once we know better how the brain works, we’ll know how to stop this disease. Dr. Yankner and his team are already on the way.

We’re grateful Dr. Yankner took time to clearly explain his research. This is one conversation you’ll want to make sure you take time to play it back.

 

June 2014: First-of-its-kind Alzheimer's trial

Dr. Reisa Sperling is leading a study into a new drug treatment that could prevent memory loss before symptoms show. The changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer's occur years before symptoms, such as forgetfulness, appear. Dr. Sperling is leading the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's study (A4 study for short) which targets amyloid, a protein that builds up in the brain and that some researchers believe leads to memory loss. One thousand men and women are needed to participate in this three-year study, which has over 60 site locations.

This call was made possible by the generous support of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation.

Highlights from our Alzheimer’s Talks with Dr. Reisa Sperling

The clinical study being led by Dr. Sperling, of Harvard Medical School, has the potential to accelerate our path to a cure. Here are a few things from our conversation that stuck out:

  1. The Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4 for short) is a first-of-its-kind study aimed at preventing memory loss.
  2. One of the earliest changes in the brain before the onset of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of the amyloid protein. It begins to form plaques in the brain 10-20 years before memory loss. In fact, one third of older individuals develop amyloid plaque buildup in the brain.
  3. The treatment that’s being studied is specifically designed to help the brain clear that amyloid. The A4 study is a 3 and ½ year clinical trial to test whether this treatment can slow memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. The A4 study tests a drug called Solanezumab, an antibody that helps the body clear abnormal accumulation of amyloid. This antibody binds to the amyloid to help the brain clear it out more effectively.
  5. Dr. Sperling’s A4 study is being conducted in 61 locations in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Up to 10,000 individuals between 65-85 who are cognitively normal are needed to screen for the study. The goal is to find the 1,000 who are the perfect fit.  
  6. They are particularly trying to recruit individuals from minorities, who are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s to learn about the factors that increase risk in these individuals.
  7. You can be part of the efforts to stop Alzheimer’s. If you think you or someone you know may be eligible for the study, call 844-A-4-STUDY or visit a4study.org.

The changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s occur years before forgetfulness. This study is aimed at testing individuals before symptoms appear. We need volunteers to be a part of efforts like this to stop this disease by 2020. 

We’re grateful to Dr. Sperling for joining us to tell us about this groundbreaking study. We hope you get a chance to hear from her directly.

 

May 2014: Important Alzheimer's Blood Test Research

Researchers have discovered a first-of-its-kind blood test for Alzheimer's disease that can predict - with 90 percent accuracy - if a healthy person will develop this cruel disease within three years. Dr. Howard Federoff, the Executive Vice President for Health Sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center and Executive Dean of Georgetown University School of Medicine, led the team and briefed us on why his biomarker study is a potential game-changer.

This call was made possible by the generous support of the Zickler Family Foundation. 

Highlights from our Alzheimer’s Talks with Dr. Federoff

The biomarker study led by Dr. Howard Federoff, of Georgetown University Medical Center, is a potential game-changer in our mission to find a cure. Here are a few
key points from our conversation that stuck out:

1. The blood test Dr. Federoff and his team have described predicted if a healthy person would develop Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment within two to three years with more than 90 percent accuracy.

2. Several hundred healthy people ages 70 and older were recruited into the study, and researchers examined the metabolites (fats or lipid) in their blood.

3. Over the next three years, the participants’ mental health was tracked. Eighteen of the once healthy participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment. When the researchers compared their blood with 53 cognitively normal participants to determine what was different, they found 10 lipids that were abnormal in the group who became cognitively impaired.

4. To make sure what they found wasn’t random, the researchers looked to see if the exact same blood test would spot those who had developed Alzheimer’s disease in a separate group of 41 study participants. It did so with a 90 percent accuracy rate.

5. Researchers believe the test will allow them to identify patients who have very early disease (clinically silent) who might be appropriate for clinical studies examining medicines that could be effective when given before clinical symptoms appear.

6. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, and the test won’t be available to patients for several years, it could eventually replace more invasive and expensive testing methods, such as those involving PET scans and spinal taps. An advantage of a blood test is that it is so simple, and samples could potentially be drawn at doctors’ offices around the country.

7. Dr. Federoff and his team are planning further studies on this blood test, and he anticipates other researchers within the medical community will contribute papers on this topic over the next year.

8. Parameters are being finalized for a follow-up study with potential opportunities for volunteers. Stay tuned.

The possibility that we could treat people before symptoms appear would change everything. The key to stopping this cruel disease rests on being able to identify who’s likely to get Alzheimer’s so researchers can investigate possible treatments and prevention before it’s too late. It’s one of the most crucial missing pieces from our quest to find a cure by 2020.

You can learn more about the study by visiting the Georgetown University Medical Center’s website, which includes a video and additional background on Dr. Federoff’s research team.

We’re grateful to Dr. Federoff for joining us and hope you have a chance to hear from him directly.

 

 

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