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2024 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity (AARG-D)

Targeting late-life depression to mitigate Alzheimer's dementia

Could stimulating a specific part of the brain reduce depression and prevent Alzheimer’s in older adults?

Victor Luna, Ph.D.
Temple University – Of The Commonwealth System of Higher Education
Philadelphia, PA - United States



Background

Individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementia may experience mood and behavioral changes, including depression, stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Additionally, depression in older adults can itself be a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s. However, the mechanisms linking depression and Alzheimer’s risk are unknown. 

In preliminary studies, Dr. Victor Luna and colleagues have identified that changes in synapses (specialized structures that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other) in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which plays a role in learning, memory formation, and our emotions, might be the key to understanding this link.

Research Plan

For their project, Dr. Luna and the team will test whether stimulating synapse function or the formation of new synapses can improve behavioral symptoms in Alzheimer’s. They will do this by stimulating specific proteins that play a role in synapse function in both aged and genetically-engineered Alzheimer’s-like mice and performing behavioral assessments.

Impact

The results of this project may help us better understand the mechanisms linking depression and Alzheimer’s risk in older adults. If successful, the findings could also lead to new therapies or prevention strategies for those at risk of developing the disease.

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