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2017 Grants - Amariglio
Examining the Trajectory of Subjective Cognitive Decline in Preclinical AD
Rebecca Amariglio, Ph.D.
Brigham and Women's Hospital
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
How might people who notice their own problem with memory be at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease?
Recent studies have found that certain people who report complaints about memory or other forms of cognition have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Increasingly, many researchers consider this phenomenon, called subjective cognitive decline (SCD), to be part of “preclinical Alzheimer’s disease”, the earliest phase of the disorder. People with SCD often do not present any clinical symptoms of memory impairment, yet they have been shown to possess certain molecular brain changes typical of early Alzheimer’s — including elevated levels of beta-amyloid and toxic tau protein. Yet, the exact molecular and clinical profile of SCD remains undetermined.
Rebecca Amariglio, Ph.D., and colleagues will test a method of tracking subjective cognitive decline over time. First, they will select a group of older participants with memory complaints and assign each one with a study partner. The participants will then complete monthly electronic questionnaires at home that ask about the state of their memory and thinking abilities. Study partners will also fill out the questionnaires to give their own assessment of the participants’ cognitive health. Other tests will be administered to participants in a clinic, including positron emission tomography (PET) imaging scans for measuring brain levels of beta-amyloid and tau, as well as tests of cognitive performance. Dr. Amariglio’s team will then analyze and compare the results of these tests to determine if they indicate a pattern of change — both in cognitive health and in brain chemistry — that can be linked to their own perception of cognitive decline.
Dr. Amariglio’s study could help refine our understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease starts and progresses at its earliest stage. It could also yield a novel, easily-administered tool for tracking this progression. Ultimately, such advancements could promote the testing of effective, early-stage treatments for the disease.