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2016 Grants - Babulal
Racial Differences in Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarkers and Driving Behavior
Ganesh Babulal, OTD
Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship to Promote Diversity (AARF-D)
Can Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers help predict who may be at risk for declines in driving ability?
Previous research has shown that individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can develop impairment in their driving abilities. It is unknown at what stage of the disease impairment may begin to increase the risk of driving accidents. It is possible that driving ability becomes impaired before the clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, such as memory loss, are detected.
While previous studies have shown that African-Americans are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s, less is known about how racial background may affect levels of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, and how this may relate to driving ability. Biomarkers include levels of specific proteins in the blood or cerebrospinal fluid, as well as brain changes observed by brain imaging that may indicate the risk of disease. It is not yet known if changes in these biomarkers could help predict impaired driving ability in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ganesh Babulal, OTD, and colleagues will conduct a study to determine if levels of Alzheimer’s biomarkers differ between African-Americans and Caucasians, and explore if these biomarkers could help identify who may be at risk for decline in driving abilities. They will study 60 older individuals and measure changes in Alzheimer’s-related proteins in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid. Dr. Babulal and colleagues will also use computerized equipment to record driving behavior over several months in the participants. They will determine whether levels of Alzheimer’s biomarkers at the beginning of the test period were related to driving behavior at that time, and whether biomarker levels predicted changes in driving ability over the subsequent months.
These studies could help scientists better understand how Alzheimer’s biomarkers may differ across racial groups, and whether levels of biomarkers could be used as a tool to predict driving ability in people who may be at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The results of this work could also inform interventions to help prolong safe driving and maintain independence and quality of life during aging.