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2024 Alzheimer's Association Research Fellowship (AARF)

Socioemotional mechanisms underlying social vulnerability in dementia

How do Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia impact a person’s susceptibility to social vulnerability?

Jayden Lee, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC)
Nashville, TN - United States



Background

Social vulnerability is defined as a person or groups susceptibility to adverse impact of natural hazards, including injury, loss, death or disruption of livelihood. This could include financial exploitation as well. Examples of socially vulnerable populations include those without vehicles, individuals with a disability, minoritized populations. 

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a group of degenerative diseases that show progressive nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes (areas behind your forehead) or temporal lobes (areas behind your ears), Alzheimer’s dementia and other diseases that cause dementia can impact personality, emotions and language comprehension. Researchers suggest that these brain changes observed in these diseases may increase an individual’s social vulnerability.

Research Plan

Dr. Lee and colleagues will use a photo-based and a video-based test to study specific aspects of cognition related to social and emotional processing (meaning how the brain processes these interactions and feelings) in individual with Alzheimer’s and individuals with FTD to see if changes in these areas impact social vulnerability. Next, the research team will image the brain while individuals are watching a short video clip to see if any functional brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s or FTD can be observed and if these changes are associated with social vulnerability.

Impact

If successful, this study may increase our ability to study social and emotional changes associated with Alzheimer’s and FTD and could be useful in developing tools to better support people with increased social vulnerability.

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