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2008 Grants - Rentz
Amyloid Deposition in Normal Controls: Impact of Cognitive Reserve
Dorene M. Rentz, Psy.D.
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc.
2008 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
The hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease include brain accumulations of the protein fragment beta-amyloid. Scientists believe that beta-amyloid impairs cell-to-cell communication in the brain, which leads to cognitive loss. Yet studies of autopsied brain tissue from people with no diagnosed cognitive impairment have found substantial amounts of beta-amyloid deposition. The "cognitive reserve" hypothesis may explain why different people's brains react differently to beta-amyloid. Cognitive reserve refers to the ability of an individual to withstand age- or disease-related changes in the brain.
Dorene M. Rentz, Psy.D., and colleagues plan to test the cognitive reserve hypothesis as it regards beta-amyloid accumulation. They hope to enroll 25 participants with evidence of cognitive reserve. These individuals should possess varying amounts of beta-amyloid build-up in their brains, yet they should test normal in standard cognitive evaluations.
The researchers will administer a variety of cognitive tests, genetic tests and brain scans to their participants. The scans will utilize several sophisticated imaging technologies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET). The results of this work will be compared with similar data already collected from people with Alzheimer's disease and another memory disorder called dementia with Lewy bodies. Dr. Rentz's team hopes to determine whether cognitive reserve has an impact on memory performance in people with beta-amyloid deposits. It also plans to assess whether cognitive reserve can withstand damage to the brain's cell-to-cell communication network. Finally, the team will investigate whether more challenging memory tests can detect early memory impairment in people with cognitive reserve.
The findings of this project could lead to a better understanding of early brain changes in Alzheimer's disease. Such knowledge could promote better ways of detecting early Alzheimer's in people with and without cognitive reserve.