A report from the ground at the 2022 Alzheimer's Association International Conference by Taylor Wilson, a staff research champion for Region 15 (SC, NC & GA).
Being at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference this week has been so exciting. It feels like every minute some new, hope inspiring, fascinating piece of data or full study is revealed. The energy is almost tangible in the large San Diego Conference Center.
One area where this energy is most frenetic is among the rows of posters being presented by researchers every single day. In the exhibit hall, researcher ask other researchers questions about processes, inquire about imaging, talk about research design, and more. Here, among the rows and rows of incredible data that represents thousands of hours of research is where you find a majority of the “early career researchers."
Dr. Natalie Hetherington has been studying neurodegenerative diseases for eight years. She is a researcher for University of South Carolina (USC), presenting work looking at chronological age versus brain age and how an older brain age might affect cognition. Like so many, she has a family connection to dementia. Her “granddad” had Alzheimer’s. When asked what excites her the most as a researcher at AAIC, she said, “Seeing the broad range of research. We’re quite focused on looking at MRI scans, but there’s a lot of research out there about genetics and behavior that we’ve never looked at before, so it’s really cool to see the range of research going on."
Doctoral student, Samaneh Nemati, also of USC, works in the University's Aphasia Lab. She is presenting a poster on brain age as well, using neurocognitive imaging and examining factors that can affect brain aging,. Her study included 60 healthy adults from South Carolina. When asked what excites her about AAIC, she shared “It’s interesting, and I enjoy how people look at the same issue or problem differently. You can see different perspectives. It’s great!”
Takiyah Starks is a Program Manager at the Maya Angelou Center For Health Equity at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Her poster highlighed findings on a study the Center conducted around caregivers and the impact that COVID-19 had on their caregiving duties. They looked into caregivers’ mental health and also the resources that they needed to continue to provide high levels of care to their loved ones living with dementia. Starks shared one significant outcome of the study: “Male caregivers had a higher psychological stress rate than female caregivers. We also found out that male caregivers needed more resources for medical care, food, and employment.”
Shayan Nik Akhtar is a doctoral student with East Carolina University’s Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. His poster focused on proteins that are important for neuron-to-neuron connections that help develop memory, looking at how these proteins don’t function when symptoms of dementia are present. This was a mouse model study. When asked why he entered into this field of research, he said, “I have always been interested in the mind and how memory plays such a role in our daily lives. So I took a medical neuroscience course and it was fascinating. We studied actual human brains and I got interested in just the complexity of the human brain.”
The next generation of scientists bring new hearts and, yes — minds
— into our work to protect the minds of others. Having the chance to speak with them in person, I am so grateful that they are on our team — the team to #ENDALZ!
To learn more about research presented at AAIC, check out our website
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.