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2009 Grants - Bendlin
White Matter Alterations in Middle-Aged Adults at Risk for Alzheimer's Disease
Barbara Brigitta Bendlin, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
2009 New Investigator Research Grant
Scientists often refer to regions of the brain as grey matter or white matter; grey matter contains the bodies of nerve cells, whereas white matter contains nerve fibers and regions where fibers send signals to other fibers. In persons with Alzheimer's disease, anatomical and imaging studies have shown that brain white matter is structurally altered compared to healthy persons. Such white matter alterations can occur many years before the disease is diagnosed, suggesting that they are an early indication of disease onset.
Barbara Brigitta Bendlin, Ph.D. and colleagues have proposed to examine the causes of white matter alterations in cognitively normal adults at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. They plan to focus on adults with one of two risk factors: metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and poor control of blood sugar) or a genetic variant of an enzyme known as apolipoprotein E epsilon4 (APOE e4).
Dr. Bendlin's team will perform magnetic resonance imaging of brain white matter in persons with metabolic syndrome or who have the APOE e4 gene variant. They will use this method to assess the integrity of brain white matter, as well as blood flow in specific regions of the brain. The goal of this research is to determine how much these risk factors affect brain white matter and brain blood flow, and whether such changes predict the development of Alzheimer's disease later in life. These studies will improve our knowledge about the causes of different forms of Alzheimer's disease, and they may establish methods for monitoring the efficacy of treatments to prevent or slow the disease.