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2016 Grants - Villeneuve
Monitoring Behavioral Changes Using Online Tools in At-Risk Individuals
Sylvia Villeneuve, Ph.D.
Douglas Hospital Research Centre
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2016 New Investigator Research Grant
Can an inexpensive, internet-based system help detect early changes in brain function in individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease?
One of the major goals of Alzheimer’s research is to develop treatments to stop or slow progression at the earliest stages of the disease – before disease-related brain changes have occurred. If scientists are to develop these therapies, they need ways to determine who is at risk for developing the disease and reliable methods for monitoring disease progression. Measurements such as brain imaging and tests of cerebrospinal fluid can be invasive, expensive and require people to make trips to medical clinics or brain imaging facilities. Therefore, developing novel methods that may be more cost-effective and less invasive could benefit the diagnostic process.
Sylvia Villeneuve, Ph.D., and colleagues are working to develop simple and inexpensive ways to detect the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. They have recently developed an internet-based testing system that people can use in their own homes to monitor behavioral changes. The online system consists of computerized tasks and questionnaires used to obtain information on lifestyle factors, cognitive function and mental health.
Dr. Villeneuve and colleagues will study the effectiveness of their system in a group of 300 people who are already participating in a study of Alzheimer’s biomarkers (such as brain imaging and blood tests). Study participants have normal brain function and a family history of Alzheimer’s disease at the beginning of the study. The researchers will determine if their internet-based system can measure subtle changes in behavior or brain function that may indicate the earliest symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The results from the online system will be compared with data collected from the biomarker studies already being conducted in the same individuals.
Dr. Villeneuve’s research could lead to the development of simpler and less expensive ways to measure the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Home-based online testing may allow for identification of individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s in a much larger population and could have significant healthcare implications.