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2016 Grants - Phillips
Anatomical Progression of Typical and Atypical Alzheimer's Disease
Jeffrey S. Phillips, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship (AARF)
How does the progression of brain changes differ in typical and atypical Alzheimer’s disease?
Research suggests that for the majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease, brain changes typically begin in an area of the brain called the medial temporal lobe (MTL), which is vital to learning and memory function. Over time, the disease progresses to other areas including the outer layer of the brain known as the neocortex. However, in about one third of individuals with Alzheimer’s, the initial symptoms are not memory-related but instead include specific declines in language abilities, visual perception and executive control (e.g. ability to organize, multitask and plan). These “atypical” Alzheimer’s conditions include primary progressive aphasia (PPA), posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) and frontal variant Alzheimer’s disease (fvAD). There is recent evidence that individuals with atypical Alzheimer’s show early brain changes in the neocortex while the MTL is spared. More research is needed to better understand the mechanisms that underlie these differences and how they relate to clinical symptoms.
Jeffrey S. Phillips, Ph.D., and colleagues will analyze brain imaging scans and cognitive testing data collected from over 2,000 individuals that have participated in large research studies. They will use brain scans collected across long periods of time to examine the pattern and rate of change in different brain regions in individuals with typical and atypical Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers will determine how these brain changes relate to clinical symptoms such as problems with memory, language and vision. They will also study how alterations in the connections between brain regions may impact the progression of symptoms in early and later stages of the disease.
The results of this study will help provide more detailed knowledge on the potential similarities and differences between disease progression in typical and atypical Alzheimer’s. Most importantly this work could inform the development of new treatments targeted for the specific mechanisms that underlie these diseases.