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Other Research

NEW RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY
Bruce Crosson, Ph.D.

Do you or someone you know have Alzheimer’s disease?

Participants are needed for a research study to help us better understand language problems in Alzheimer’s disease. Participants must be right handed, native English language speakers, and able to undergo an MRI scan. Compensation will be provided for undergoing the MRI scan. If interested please call the University of Florida at (352) 273-5249. Approved by Shands IRB – 9/30/09


Telephonic Assessment of Sundowning in Those with Memory Disorders
David Burks, MD

“Sundowning” is a problem observed in patients with progressive cognitive (memory and “thinking”) problems characterized by waxing and waning (getting better and getting worse) of cognitive impairment at different times of the day, most commonly in the afternoon and evening. The purpose of this project is to assess the frequency of this disorder in patients with progressive dementia through the use of telephonically administered cognitive assessment tools. Subjects simply answer a set of questions posed by the investigator over the phone, once in the morning and once in the evening over two consecutive days. These interviews allow testing of patients over a large population without a clinic visit and thus provide a means to investigate the causes and incidence of this disorder.


Predicting Alzheimer’s Disease
KM Heilman, MD

We are testing the ability of a new computerized test to distinguish (and screen) demented individuals from non-demented elderly subjects. The goal of this project is to create and test a self-administered computer test for dementia. If successful, this test could then be used in public facilities (e.g. pharmacies, grocery stores) and by primary care physicians to screen for possible dementia.


Anti-cholinergic Medications and Dementia
Jack Tsao, MD and KM Heilman, MD

The purpose of this study is to learn if people who have a history of taking medications that have anti-cholinergic properties are more likely to develop dementia than people who do not take these medications. This study is using large databases, where patients are followed longitudinally and the medications they are using or have used are recorded.


Creativity and Dementia
Valeria Drago, MD and KM Heilman, MD

The purpose of this study is to assess patients with various forms of dementia with a well standardized test of creativity, the Torrance test, to learn what aspects of the dementing process influence the various components of creativity.


Attentional Distractibility in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease
Valeria Drago, MD and KM Heilman, MD

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease often demonstrate visuospatial disorders when performing instrumental activities and activities of daily living. The purpose of this study is to learn if patients with AD have increased spatial distractibility. To assess these patients, as well as control subjects, we will have them perform line bisections with distracting stimuli on one or the other ends of these lines versus performing the line bisection task without distracting stimuli. Both bottom up (novel stimuli) and top down attention, where patients must allocate their attention and then disengage will be assessed. If we learn that patients with AD are distractible, future studies will attempt to learn the effect of catecholaminergic medications on distractibility.


Disengagement in Alzheimer’s Disease
Valeria Drago, MD and KM Heilman, MD

Many of the families of patients with AD complain that these patients appear to be withdrawn, especially avoiding social situations. There are at least two explanations of this withdrawal. It is possible that these patients have a reduction in their social-emotional responsitivity (have decreased rating of emotional stimuli) or have an avoidance response (overall have a propensity to bisect lines toward their body). To test these alternatives, subjects with AD and controls are being asked to rate emotional pictures on radial lines.


fMRI Mapping of Memory Functions
David Loring, PhD

We will examine the activity of brain regions that are associated with successful acquisition of material into memory, which will permit us to determine which brain regions are contributing to successful memory formation. The purpose of this research study is to learn how the brain analyzes information and how the brain functions to produce behavior. We hope to determine how the performance of different types of tasks affects the blood oxygenation in different areas of the brain.


Concept Combination and Sentence Production
Lori Altmann, PhD

The purpose of this study is to investigate the ability of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to combine individual concepts into grammatical sentences. Our secondary goal is to examine the effects of semantic, working memory and executive function impairments on this ability. These studies will lead to an improved understanding of how different aspects of cognition contribute to language use in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other impaired populations.

Therapeutic Research

Clinical trials are an important part of memory and cognitive disorders research. The information that is gathered from clinical trials is used in determining whether certain treatments are effective and safe for patients. Researchers depend upon the willingness of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders to aid in the advancement of these treatments.
Modification of Adult Cells for Therapeutic Applications in Alzheimer’s Disease
David Borchelt, PhD

Alzheimer’s disease is thought to result from the deposition of a chemical called amyloid in the brain, which results in the death of nerve cells and the resulting dementia. Dr. Borchelt’s expertise in producing and analyzing mice that produce excessive amounts of amyloid, reproducing aspects of Alzheimer’s disease provides an opportunity to test novel therapies quickly and effectively, and thereby hasten the identification of new effective therapies. The University of Florida has been a leader in applications of stem cell therapy and in developing the technology to use recombinant viruses to deliver therapeutic agents. The emphasis in stem cell research at UF has been on using stems found in the adult nervous system.

Three phases are planned in developing these technologies as therapeutics for humans. First, the laboratory will use mouse models to test a number of parameters including, genetic modification of the stem cells to produce potentially therapeutic molecules, routes of delivery, and pre-clinical assessments of efficacy. The second phase involves isolation of human neural stem cells, genetic modification of these cells, and pre-clinical assessments of safety in animals. The third phase, will be to establish the safety and potential efficacy of modified human stem cells as therapeutics in humans. We are fortunate that colleagues here at the MBI are in engaged in similar types of studies to develop stem cell therapies for Parkinson’s disease, and thus information gained from their effort and visa versa will likely speed up development for both diseases. Similar types of approaches hold promise for a number of other neurodegenerative diseases, including Progressive Supranuclear palsy, Multisystem Atrophy, Fronto-Temporal Dementia, Diffuse Lewy body disease, Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.


Leukoariosis in Alzheimer’s Disease

KM Heilman, MD

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease and patients with vascular dementia (i.e. from small strokes) frequently have brain lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which involve the white matter that is composed of nerve fibers connecting different parts of the brain. These white matter lesions are called leukoaraiosis (LA). The cause of LA is not known with certainty and may be due to a variety of pathological processes with different risk factors that interact to produce different clinical manifestations, patterns of cognitive disturbance, and potential hazards. It is unclear whether the processes leading to LA are the same in patients with and without Alzheimer’s disease and whether more than one process leads to changes in each individual patient. The first goal of this project seeks to determine whether patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease demonstrate different patterns of cognitive and behavioral dysfunction, cognitive-motor deficits, and personality changes when LA is detected. The second goal of this project is to examine postmortem brain to determine the exact pathology of LA imaged on MRI. The third goal of this project is to develop therapies for patients with LA and Alzheimer’s disease. Two compounds which we planned to test are ergoloid mesthylate (hydergine) and mucomyst (N-acetylcysteine) in order to determine if cognition and memory are improved by these treatments.


 

Treating Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease with Significant Subcortical White Matter Lesions with Donepezil
KM Heilman, MD

This study is designed to examine 1) the role of white matter abnormalities on the clinical/behavioral manifestation of Alzheimer’s Disease and 2) the relationship between white matter abnormalities and responsiveness to a commonly used medication for memory problems (donepezil).


Errorless Learning Treatment of Anomia in Alzheimer’s Disease
KM Heilman, MD

Many people with dementia are able to learn skills fairly well, even when they have trouble learning specific facts. People with dementia often remember their own mistakes (which are their own actions) better than they remember the corrections to their mistakes (which is usually information they hear from someone else). Errorless learning is a way to get someone to learn something by saying or doing it, rather than by telling or showing. The person is not given the opportunity to make a mistake, so there are no mistakes to be remembered. Our preliminary studies suggest that errorless learning can help Alzheimer patients. This study will determine if errorless learning can reduce word finding problems (anomia) in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.


Note that this list includes those projects linked to the Alzheimer Research Center, but does not include all dementia related research at the University of Florida. If you are interested in participating in some memory disorder or Alzheimer’s disease research opportunities, please check this web site for upcoming clinical trials.


 

Database

Memory and Cognitive Disorders Research Program (MCDRP-UF) Database

This database with information on our patients with dementia is critical to clinical research. This database is key to compiling data on patients/subjects, tracking disease progression, family history, identifying patients for participation in emerging research programs including translational research. It will allow researchers within the Memory and Cognitive Disorders Research Program at the University of Florida to try and learn what factors or conditions best predict good treatment outcomes.

Other studies may examine various problems that patients with memory and cognitive disorders might experience or the effects of medications and other treatments. Still, others may examine the basic mechanisms underlying the development of memory and cognitive disorders. By storing patient information generated from the Memory and Cognitive Disorders Clinic, researchers will be better equipped to answer these aspects. Identify adults with memory and cognitive disorders who may be interested in taking part in future research studies that are conducted by the University of Florida faculty and researchers and be able to look at data from all patients with memory and cognitive disorders in order to use information for future research studies.