RI Hospital Alzheimer’s researchers present at virtual international meeting

July 31, 2020

Researchers from the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital presented five abstracts to their colleagues around the world at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference held virtually this week.
•    Brian Ott, MD, center director, presented results from a study to determine if in-car video technology can effectively detect unsafe driving events in cognitively impaired older adults, and if providing feedback about these events to drivers and their family members can lead to a reduction in the frequency and severity of unsafe driving behaviors. Unsafe driving events were captured from in-car video recorders and later analyzed, categorized and scored. Half of the participants in the study were monitored but received no feedback. The other half of the participants and their family members were sent a weekly report by mail along with a DVD of recorded unsafe driving events with recommendations. Those in the group who received feedback had 21% fewer unsafe driving events (UDE) compared to the group who receive no feedback. The feedback group also saw a 48% decrease in severity of UDE while the non-feedback group saw a 37% increase. “Results of the study suggest that it may be possible to improve driving safety among older drivers with cognitive impairment using video technology and a behavior modification approach aimed directly at problem behaviors that cause unsafe driving events,” said Ott.
•    Laura Korthauer, PhD, and Ott presented findings on the value of primary care providers (PCPs) screening for early detection of cognitive impairment. The study examined the case histories of 100 local patients referred by their PCPs for genotyping and telephone screening. “Primary care is an important gateway for screening patients for risk for cognitive decline,” said Korthauer. “This study shows that implementing a cognitive and genetic screening program for AD risk in a primary care setting is feasible and well-received by patients. The program may provide added value to PCPs in advising patients about risk factor modification.”
•    Lori Daiello, PharmD, ScM, presented information on the protocol for an upcoming study of older adults undergoing elective surgery and the role of impaired blood-brain barrier (BBB) function as a pre-surgery indicator of cognitive problems in those with and without risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. “BBB dysfunction is an indicator of brain vulnerability and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease that may also be an important risk factor for postoperative delirium and delayed or incomplete cognitive recovery,” said Daiello. “CREATES is the first study of perioperative cognitive outcomes to investigate BBB function with this brain imaging approach. The results will provide important insights into the underlying mechanism(s) of memory impairments that may follow major surgery.” 
•    Geoffrey Tremont, PhD, presented evidence that yoga may improve some aspects of brain health in individuals living with Mild Cognitive Impairment, a condition often seen as a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. His study included 12 weeks of twice weekly yoga classes, while his colleague, Dr. Jennifer Davis conducted classes involving interactive discussion and presentations addressing healthy living topics relevant to aging and cognitive impairment. “The results of this study showed no statistical differences in specific areas of thinking between the yoga classes and the healthy living classes,” said Tremont. “However, we did see signs that yoga participation was associated with improvements in participants’ ability to process visual information and engage in planning, organization and holding information in short-term memory.” The study also found that the yoga group had a greater decline in perceived stress, whereas the healthy living classes showed a greater reduction in depressive symptoms when compared to the other group. 
•    Jonathan Drake, MD, associate director of the center, presented an abstract which assessed whether molecular blood biomarkers of vascular inflammation could be a useful tool in assessing risk for Alzheimer's disease. Results showed that a blood-based protein called Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule–1 (VCAM–1), an indicator of active inflammation of the body’s blood vessels, was higher in people who were further along in the Alzheimer’s disease spectrum than those who are less affected. Alzheimer’s disease detected early in life may be altered over time with effective interventions. “Developing blood-based biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease is an important milestone that needs to be achieved,” said Drake. “This is especially important in the current era given recent advances in the field identifying midlife vascular risk factors as representing between 30 to 60% of one’s risk for later-life Alzheimer’s disease. Importantly, vascular risk factors are theoretically modifiable, meaning that important steps toward optimal health taken early in life may decrease your risk for succumbing to this devastating disease as you get older.”

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