Ongoing Research

Lifespan researches dementia

Areas of Interest in ongoing research

  • Clinical trials for primary and secondary prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
  • Pharmacoepidemiology in aging and dementia
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation in frontotemporal dementia and degenerative brain disorders
  • Insulin and “type 3 diabetes” in Alzheimer’s disease
  • Biomarkers and brain imaging studies of preclinical Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  • Driving and other behavioral problems in MCI and AD
  • Cognitive screening tests for mild cognitive impairment and normal aging
  • Blood brain barrier in Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment
  • Vascular contributions to development of dementia
  • Quality of life in dementia and caregiver support

Read more about on-going research.

To find out if you or a loved one are eligible to participate in any of our clinical trials, please call us at 401-444-6440.

Lifespan research is an important component of the national efforts to prevent and lessen the effects of memory disorder diseases such as dementia.  Interested volunteers for these studies should contact Brian Ott, MD or Lori Daiello, PharmD at the Lifespan Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at 1-844-5MEMORY or by email,

Current Research

Clinical Trial of New Approach to Combat Alzheimer’s Disease

Unique new drug, ABBV-8E12, is first immunotherapy to target tau proteins

The Lifespan Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center is part of a national effort studying a new approach to treat people with early Alzheimer’s Disease.  The drug ABBV-8E12 may stop the spread of a protein in the brain that is linked to Alzheimer's Disease.  

Before Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms appear, two proteins known as tau and amyloid are accumulating in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. When tau and amyloid build up, together they can interfere with how the brain normally works and may cause problems with memory and thinking.
ABBV-8E12 attaches to the tau protein and tries to prevent it from spreading throughout the brain and collecting in brain cells. 

“Because changes in tau are more closely related to the degeneration of nerve cells as well as the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, we are hopeful that this will be a successful approach to controlling the disease. Among investigational drugs currently under study for Alzheimer’s Disease, ABBV-8E12 is unique in that it does not aim to reduce amyloid protein buildup in the brain, but is the first immunotherapy to target tau protein.”
Brian Ott, MD,  principal investigator at Rhode Island Hospital.
Eligible Participants 

Only people with higher levels of amyloid plaques on their PET scan will qualify to participate in this study. Approximately once a month to 75-percent of participants will be given ABBV-8E12 intravenously and 25-percent will be given a placebo (salt water). This study will last for about 24 months.

Interested volunteers should contact Dr. Ott or Lori Daiello, PharmD at the Lifespan Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at 1-844-5MEMORY or by email,

Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) Continues Testing

State-of-the-art brain imaging techniques to aid early detection of Alzheimer’s  dementia

Alzheimer’s researchers at Rhode Island Hospital are currently in the third phase of a landmark study that has already yielded critical clues about the disease. The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), is designed to develop biomarkers for the early detection and tracking of Alzheimer’s.

The study, funded by the National Institutes on Aging and private organizations, has already influenced researchers’ understanding of Alzheimer’s by identifying the earliest changes in brain structure and function that signal its onset and progression. Since its inception in 2004, ADNI has led to better methods for early detection of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s.

This third phase of ADNI (ADNI3) builds on the discoveries of the previous phases. As one of 60 study sites across the U.S., the Lifespan Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center is participating in the nationwide effort to recruit 1,200 volunteers, who will join the 800 current participants.

State-of-the-art brain imaging techniques will be used to monitor brain levels of tau, a protein that is often abnormal in Alzheimer’s patients. ADNI3 also will assess cognitive function through computer tests at home and in the doctor’s office, which will include measuring changes in subjects’ ability to handle money, a warning sign of the disease.

Eligible Participants

Currently, ADNI3 is seeking healthy people over age 55, without memory problems, as well as those with mild memory problems and those who have been diagnosed with mild dementia due to Alzheimer's disease.

If you are interested in volunteering for ADNI or have questions about the research, contact the Rhode Island Hospital ADMDC at 1-844-5MEMORY or email

Seeking Older Drivers for On-Road Research

Lifespan researches safety of older driversIn-car cameras may improve driving ability, reduce incidents of risky driving

Older drivers with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s dementia are participating in new research that uses a car video-monitoring device to record driving ability. Lifespan Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center researchers are using the same technology that has been used successfully to reduce unsafe driving behavior among teenaged and commercial drivers.

Funded by The Alzheimer’s Association and based at the Lifespan  Alzheimer’s disease and Memory Disorders Center, this study will examine whether a monitoring device called DriveCam® can improve driving ability by providing video feedback.

“Citing safety reasons, many people want to ban cognitively impaired people from driving motor vehicles. However, others note that many individuals with early stage cognitive impairment can drive safely, without accidents, for several years. In fact, two-thirds can pass road tests despite mild impairment. Prematurely terminating a person’s ability to drive will surely affect their livelihood, social life and independence.” 
Brian Ott, MD, Director of the Lifespan Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center

When a two-way camera in the participant’s car senses risky driving, it records for 15 seconds and posts the clip to a website for later review. For example, when the driver suddenly swerves, the camera will capture what the driver was seeing, hearing and doing before and after the incident. The driver and loved ones can review the recorded unsafe driving events together and discuss the causes and potential corrective actions.

About DriveCam® Research

Brian Ott, MD and Jennifer Davis, PhD have led driving and cognitive impairment research for the last 15 years. In a pilot study, they found that DriveCam® reduced the severity of unsafe driving events by up to 60 percent over a period of three months. In addition to the DriveCam® research, they have studied the natural course of driving decrement in older drivers and how it relates to cognitive impairment. They found that people affected by mild dementia could continue driving safely for around one year, while those with mild cognitive impairment could continue driving for double that time, as measured by an on-road test.

Can Yoga Help Patients with Alzheimer's Disease?

Lifespan Memory Disorders Center researches effects of yoga

Lifespan researchers are studying whether regular practice of yoga or learning healthy living strategies can improve cognitive conditions among people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

Geoffrey Tremont, PhD, director of neuropsychology at Rhode Island Hospital, is leading the study that directs patients through a 12-week, twice-weekly yoga regimen. Half the patients will be randomly assigned to yoga classes and half will take health education classes.

The yoga program involves meditation, physical postures, breathing exercises and relaxation. The healthy living program offers educational materials, lectures, and interactive sessions about lifestyle changes that are important to aging and mild cognitive impairment.

Seeking volunteers for yoga research

Interested volunteers for these studies should contact Victoria Sanborn at 401-444-4074.

The study is supported by a grant from the Alzheimer’s Association.