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2014 Grants - Gutchess
Improving Memory in aMCI with Self-Referencing
Angela Gutchess, Ph.D.
2014 New Investigator Research Grant
Recent evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s disease likely begins decades before clinical symptoms appear. People who develop Alzheimer’s may first shows signs of a preliminary brain disorder called amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). This condition, which involves mild declines in memory and other cognitive functions, is often considered an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. As such, many research teams are looking for ways to improve memory in people with aMCI and prevent or delay full-blown dementia.
According to previous research, people have a better chance of remembering information if they relate it to events or other factors from their own lives. This process is called self-referencing, and it may be linked to a specific region in the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex — a region affected during aMCI.
Angela Gutchess, Ph.D., and colleagues will use their current grant to study the effects of self-referencing activities in participants with aMCI. They will use a procedure called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which will allow them to monitor brain activity during a self-referencing task. The researchers will also assess a novel version of the self-referencing memory technique called the self-processing mode. Participants will be asked to reflect on their own past experiences for a set period of time. They then will be asked to remember information not directly related to those experiences. Dr. Gutchess and colleagues hypothesize that this strategy, which has proven effective in earlier studies, may improve their participants’ ability to learn and retain new information. Overall, the study’s results could shed new light on how memory circuits are affected in aMCI and may also help to identify a promising method for slowing the progression of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.