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2010 Grants - Wheeler
Neural Mechanisms of Perceptual Memory Decisions in MCI
Mark Edward Wheeler, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh
2010 New Investigator Research Grant
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which certain aspects of cognitive function are impaired, but the impairment is less severe than in Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. Some, but not all, people with MCI will eventually develop Alzheimer's disease, so it is important to understand the causes and characteristics of MCI.
Recent research has found that cognitive decline in MCI can be related to declines in the ability to perceive, process and store sensory information such as sights and sounds. The areas of the brain that perform these functions often become dysfunctional before the full symptoms of Alzheimer's disease appear, suggesting that these functions are crucial for the maintenance of full cognitive function.
Mark Edward Wheeler, Ph.D., and colleagues are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study how the brain perceives, processes and remembers sensory information. Using this method, they have identified the parts of the brain and the nerve signals involved in the processing and recall of sights and sounds. They plan to use these methods to study how these brain abilities are altered in persons with MCI.
The researchers will perform imaging of different regions of the brain during memory recall of a rich visual or auditory stimulus. Their goal is to identify how the processing of these signals and memories is altered in persons with MCI. By identifying how MCI affects these brain functions, the research may help in the development of treatment strategies to overcome early stages of cognitive impairment, possibly preventing or slowing progression of cognitive decline.