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Cognitive decline that accompanies aging and neurodegenerative disease is a pressing public health concern for our global aging population. However, the lack of biomarkers sensitive to early pathological brain changes precludes timely disease detection and therapeutic intervention. Our research integrates advanced neuroimaging tools (structural, diffusion, and permeability MRI, and PET), with measures of cognitive function, fluid biomarkers, genetics, and health factors to better characterize the pathways leading to cognitive decline and to develop highly sensitive markers of incipient dementia.


Alzheimer's Disease

Our lab has leveraged the advanced diffusion MRI technique restriction spectrum imaging (RSI) to identify microstructural brain abnormalities that emerge in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease. These measures correspond closely with Alzheimer’s disease pathology and predict future cognitive decline, with superior accuracy to conventional MRI measures. Because of the strong contributions of vascular risk to Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis, we are currently applying permeability MRI to examine how dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier relates to microstructural brain abnormalities and neuropathology in pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease.


Cognitive and Brain Aging

Even in the absence of dementia, cognitive decline that occurs with normal aging can profoundly impact quality of life. Employing the same diffusion MRI methods (RSI) used in our studies of Alzheimer’s disease, we identified subtle microstructural brain changes that occur with age among healthy older adults. Our findings revealed widespread abnormalities associated with older age that differ between men and women and mediate effects of age on cognitive function. Based on findings from our lab and others showing that health and lifestyle factors strongly influence trajectories of cognitive aging, we are currently examining how factors such as vascular risk and diet modify the microstructural brain changes that occur with age.


These projects have been supported by awards from the National Institutes on Aging, the Warren Alpert Foundation, the BrightFocus Foundation, and the American Federation for Aging Research and McKnight Brain Research Foundation.


Please view our Publications to learn more about our research.