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2016 Grants - Medina
Performance-Based Functional Assessment of Alzheimer's Disease in Hispanics
Louis Daniel Medina, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Denver
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship to Promote Diversity (AARF-D)
Can novel performance-based tests of brain function help improve the detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in Hispanic-Americans?
Research suggests that the risk of Alzheimer’s is about 50 percent higher in Hispanic-Americans compared with non-Hispanics. In addition, Hispanic-Americans tend to develop Alzheimer’s at an earlier age, yet they often do not receive an accurate diagnosis until the later stages of disease. Though the reasons for this delay in diagnosis are unclear, problems with the effectiveness and accuracy of diagnostic tests may play a role.
Most of the available diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease use language-based measures of memory and other cognition functions. Such tests may not accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s in Hispanic/Latinos and other individuals for whom English is not their primary language. Recent studies indicate that performance-based functional assessments (PBFAs), or tests that measure how people carry out daily activities, are less affected by cultural or language differences, and may offer a more accurate way of assessing dementia in the Hispanic-American population.
Louis Daniel Medina, Ph.D., and colleagues will conduct a study determine the effectiveness of PBFAs in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease in older Hispanic Americans. The participants will also undergo positron emission tomography (PET) imaging scans to measure brain levels of beta-amyloid (the protein fragment that forms plaques), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to detect changes in the size and structure of brain regions affected by the disease. The researchers will determine if declines in performance on PBFA tests relate to Alzheimer’s-related brain changes.
If successful, the results of this work could help identify a novel tool for improving the accuracy of Alzheimer’s diagnosis in Hispanic Americans and other minority groups. Such improvements could lead to earlier detection and diagnosis so that future treatment strategies can be administered to help slow or prevent disease progression.