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2014 Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases Grant (BAND)

Brain networks as targets of neurodegeneration in PD and AD

Alain Dagher, M.D.
McGill University
Montreal, Québec - Canada

The brain contains billions of nerve cells that interconnect. These interconnections underlie the structure and function of the brain and are known as brain networks. Functioning brain networks are essential for the brain’s unique capabilities, such as thinking, memory, controlling movement and regulation of body systems.

Both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are associated with abnormal proteins or protein fragments in the brain. Recent studies have found evidence that these abnormal proteins can move from one nerve cell to the next through brain networks, possibly leading to impairment of entire networks. This process and how it might contribute to the development of neurodegenerative disease is not well understood.

Alain Dagher, M.D., and colleagues will analyze existing databases of brain images to study how Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease move through networks in the brain. One goal of this study is to determine if the regions where the brain changes first appear differ for each disease, thereby leading to the movement of abnormal proteins or protein fragments through different brain networks. They will also explore whether there is any overlap in the networks impacted in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease progression.

Dr. Dagher’s team will analyze several types of brain images repeated over time in people who have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. The researchers will then be able to trace the progression of disease through brain networks over time. This research will provide new insights into how abnormal proteins may move through brain networks during the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, possibly leading to new ways of understanding the disease processes and the development of new therapeutic strategies.

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