The Australian population is aging and with this comes increased prevalence and incidence of dementia. The prevalence of dementia in Australia was estimated at around a quarter of a million people in 2009 with late onset Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) being the most common dementia. Currently we lack early diagnostic tools, intervention strategies and effective pharmaceutical treatments for late onset AD. We need to understand the underlying biology to address these gaps. This project will assess the functioning of the vascular system within the brain in AD and a prodromal stage, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
Since AD was first documented over 100 years ago, the majority of research has focused on problems with the structure and function of brain cells. For example, how the accumulation of amyloid and tau proteins disrupt communication between cells. Little research has assessed how blood flow changes during the AD disease process, or how changes in blood flow contribute to the manifestation of the disorder. This is despite the first documented case of AD including vascular pathology. More recent evidence for a vascular contribution to AD includes reports from autopsy studies (the collection of the brain after death) that vascular pathologies are associated with cognitive impairment in dementia, over and above that related to cellular communication pathologies. Another line of evidence is that vascular conditions in midlife such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes, increase the risk of developing AD in late life.
This study will measure blood flow velocity in major arteries of the brain at rest and during cognitive tasks in groups of individuals with AD and MCI along with healthy aging controls. The study stands to make a valuable contribution to the biological understanding of AD and MCI. We thank the Brain Foundation for their invaluable support.
Drs Hannah Keage, Mark Kohler and Owen Churches, Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, University of South Australia