Funded Pilots

Pilot Projects 2017-2018

Heather Johnson, MD, associate professor, Department of Medicine, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and Lindsay Clark, PhD, UW Geriatrics assistant scientist/clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine, and VA Advanced Fellow, "Association of Cardiovascular Risk Factors with Micro- and Macrovascular Cerebral Function in Whites and African Americans"

Drs. Johnson and Clark will explore whether midlife cardiovascular risk factors, such as tobacco use, insulin resistance, hypertension, and obesity, increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease by altering blood flow to the brain. Since these risk factors are modifiable, they are therefore potential targets for prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The researchers will be evaluating the relationships between the vascular risk factors, Alzheimer's disease indicators in the brain and spinal cord, and genetic risk factors. Additionally, they will be assessing wether these relationships vary across race, specifically between African Americans and Whites—African Americans have a higher prevalence of vascular risk factors compared to Whites, as data obtained from previous research found that 85% of African American participants had one or more vascular disease, compared to 65% of White participants. This research aims to improve the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease across races.  

 

Robert Sanders, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Anesthesiology, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, "A Pilot Study in to the Overlapping Pathologies, and Relationship, of Dementia and Delirium"

Dementia and delirium affect millions of people. Alone, Alzheimer’s disease currently affects 5 million people and by 2050 is expected to affect 14 million people. Both dementia and delirium are associated with significant impairments to quality of life, loss of independence, billions of dollars in healthcare expenses, and increased mortality. Dr. Sanders’ research will focus on the overlap in the biological mechanisms that cause these diseases, as well as their differences, in order to better understand both diseases. This research aims to improve the treatment and prevention of these diseases, while also inciting new directions of delirium and dementia research. 

 

Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi, PhD, RN, assistant professor, UW School of Nursing, "Pilot Testing of a Clinical Intervention for the Management of Neuropsychiatric symptoms in Hospitalized Patients with Alzheimer's Disease"

Virtually all individuals with moderate to severe dementia experience neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS), such as agitation, wandering, and care resistance. These symptoms often worsen during hospitalization, due to the changes in environment and routine—placing the patient with dementia at increased risk for negative outcomes including inappropriate antipsychotic use, need for one-on-one safety attendants, and prolonged hospital stays. Poorly managed NPS are also associated with significant caregiver stress and are a strong risk factor for decisions to institutionalize someone into permanent care.  Dr. Gilmore-Bykovskyi's research focuses on providing informatics-based clinical decision support to improve management of NPS during hospitalization. Her research team has worked in collaboration with medical, nursing, and nursing assistant staff to design an evidence-based, multi-component intervention that aims to better prevent, identify, and respond to NPS. The intervention consists of clinical decision-support tools, prevention strategies, symptom-specific treatment guidance, and systematic pain assessment protocols, all of which focus on addressing and treating the underlying causes of NPS symptoms, such as pain, emotional and social needs, or environmental factors. The research team will evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of the clinical intervention in decreasing the use of potentially inappropriate antipsychotics, restraints, and one-on-one safety attendants.

 

Ei Terasawa, PhD, professor, Department of Pediatrics, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, "A Non-invasive Method for Assessment of Estradiol in the Brain"

Research has shown that women using the medication estradiol, a pill that is commonly used to treat symptoms of menopause, have also experienced improved cognitive function and, in those affected, the delay of Alzheimer's disease progression. In women, the ovaries produce estrogens for reproductive function, but estrogens also play a significant role in brain functions such as learning, memory, and the protection from cell death in the brain. However, post-menopausal women no longer produce ovarian estradiol.  This could, to some extent, account for the fact that women are affected by Alzheimer's disease at a higher rate; 1 in 6 women are affected by the disease, in contrast to 1 in 11 men. Additionally, neuroestradiol in the brains of men has been reported to decrease in elderly men, especially in patients with Alzheimer's disease, possibly being a contributing factor to the disease. These previous findings prompted Dr. Terasawa to conduct further research on the role of estradiol in the brain and how it relates to Alzheimer's disease, using a new, non-invasive brain imaging method. Research will be testing how estradiol produced in the brain protects from Alzheimer's disease through assessing the production of estradiol in the brain of female monkeys whose ovaries have been removed, specifically, if the production differs with age and if the production differs when the monkeys are given estradiol as a replacement. The ultimate goal of this research is to find a tool for earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and develop a new treatment approach for Alzheimer's disease. The validation of the non-invasive brain imaging method will also be useful for future research on a variety of topics, as the role of neuroestrogens is completely unknown.

Pilot Projects 2016-2017

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center commends the following 2016-2017 award recipients for pilot research studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related illnesses:

  • Reid Alisch, PhD, "DNA methylation age and gender in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention (WRAP)"
  • Matthew Jones, PhD, "Scavenging of neuroprotective neurosteroids by A-beta, and consequences for GABAergic inhibition"
  • Nicole Pulia, PhD, "Development of novel therapeutic interventions for patients with Alzheimer's disease and comorbid dysphagia"
  • Vikas Singh, PhD, "Multiscale analysis of brain connectivity and the interplay with molecular imaging markers in preclinical AD"
  • Nicole Werner, PhD, "HelpCareConnect: Design of a web-based mobile app for distributed informal caregiving"

Pilot Projects 2015-2016

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center commends the following 2015-2016 award recipients for pilot research studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related illnesses:

  • Erika W. Hagen, PhD, "Brain injury in relation to new-onset and long-duration sleep apnea exposure in older adults: A population-based study"
  • Sterling Johnson, PhD, "In-vivo tau imaging in Alzheimer's disease"
  • Katherine Kalil, PhD, "The role of tau phosphorylation in cytoskeletal dynamics mediating pre- and post-synaptic plasticity of normal and Alzheimer's human iPSC-derived cortical neurons"
  • William G. Schrage, PhD, "Vascular control of cerebral blood flow in middle-aged adults"

Pilot Projects 2014-2015

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center commends the following 2014-2015 award recipients for pilot research studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related illnesses:

  • Andrew L. Alexander, PhD, "Imaging Neuroplasticity in Mild Cognitive Impairment"
  • Rozalyn Anderson, PhD, "Impact of Aging and AD on Neuronal Energy Metabolism in the Mouse Hippocampus"
  • Jill Barnes, PhD, "Cerebral Vasoconstrictor Function and Autoregulatory Capacity in Exercise-Trained Humans: A Pilot Study"
  • Cara J. Westmark, PhD, "Testing Direct Effects of mGluR5 Inhibition on Sleep in an Alzheimer's Disease Mouse Model"

Pilot Projects 2013-2014

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center commends the following 2013-2014 award recipients for pilot research studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related illnesses:

  • Brad Christian, PhD, “Development and Translation of a Neuroinflammation Biomarker
  • Vincent Cryns, MD, “Caspase-cleaved Tau as a Biomarker in Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Robert Thorne, PhD, “Toward the Development of Noninvasive Immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s Disease:Intranasal Targeting of IgG to the Brain”

Pilot Projects 2012-2013

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center commends the following 2012-2013 award recipients for pilot research studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related illnesses:

  • Anita Bhattacharya, PhD, “iPSCs from Down Syndrome Individuals with Amyloid Load
  • Maritza Dowling, PhD, “Metric Equivalence and Comparability of the MMSE and MoCA Cognitive Tests and Impact on the Identification of Cognitive Impairment”
  • Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, PhD, “Development of an AD Prevention Program for African Americans
  • Ozioma Okonkwo, PhD, “Identification of Antecedent Biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease in Cerebrospinal Fluid using a Clinically Available Endophenotype”
  • Mariana Pehar, PhD & Luigi Puglielli, MD, PhD, “Involvement of p53 Activity in the Cognitive Decline that Accompanies Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease”

Pilot Project 2011-2012

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center commends the following 2011-2012 award recipients for pilot research studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related illnesses:

  • Sean Fain, PhD - Proposal to develop in vivo marker of brain metabolism, i.e. hyperpolarized 1-13C-pyruvate, using a mouse model
  • Michael Gitcho, PhD & Jeff Johnson, PhD - Proposal to clarify role of overexpression of a tau-like protein, TDP-43 in AD pathology, using mouse model and brain tissue
  • Li Lingjun, PhD - Proposal to derive and test drug-delivery potential of a modified N-acetyl-L cysteine molecule, which is a known antioxidant agent

Pilot Project 2010-2011

Three researchers were awarded Pilot Study Grants in the 2010-2011 grant year by the Wisconsin Comprehensive Memory Program to conduct studies related to memory and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

Congratulations to the following awardees of the pilot grant:

  • Gururaj Joshi, PhD & Jeff Johnson, PhD, "Role of Nrf2 in mouse models of Alzheimer's disorders"
  • Corinne Engelman, MSPH, PhD, "Genetic architecture of Alzheimer's-related functional and structural brain aging"
  • Georgia Malandraki, PhD, "Effects of sensory stimulation on neural activity and swallowing performance in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease"

Pilot Project 2008

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center commends the following 2008 award recipients for pilot research studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related illnesses:

  • Barbara B. Bendlin, PhD for her project entitled "Early Detection of White Matter Degeneration in People at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease: Relationship to Vascular Risk and Memory Function"
  • Bradley Christian, PhD for his project entitled "PET Imaging the 5-HT1A System in MCI and AD"
  • Onofre T. DeJesus, PhD for his project entitled "PET Imaging Markers For Tau Protein"
  • Carey Gleason, PhD for her project entitled "A Mechanistic Examination of Falls Occurring in Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease"
  • Bruce Hermann, PhD for his project entitled "Cognitive aging in chronic epilepsy"
  • Luigi Puglielli, MD PhD for his project entitled "An aging pathway controls Alzheimer's disease neuropathology"
  • Vikas Singh, PhD for his project entitled "Methods and tools for image based AD classification with evaluations on the ADNI dataset"
  • Joshua M. Thorpe, PhD, MPH for his project entitled "Barriers to Medical Care and Medication Adherence in Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders"
  • Whitney Wharton, PhD for her project entitled "The Effect of Centrally Acting Antihypertensives on Individuals at Risk for Alzheimer's disease"

Pilot Project 2006

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center commends the following 2006 award recipients for pilot research studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related illnesses:

  • Cynthia Carlsson, MD, MS for her project entitled "Impact of Atorvastatin on Cerebral Perfusion and Endothelial Function"
  • Timothy Juergens, MD for his project "Autonomic dysfunction in subjects at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease"
  • Ronald Kalil, PhD for his project "Nestin positive neurons in the cholinergic basal forebrain and related areas"
  • James Malter, MD for his project "Characterization of a novel mouse model for the study of neurological diseases"
  • Michele Ries, PhD for her project "Posterior cingulate connectivity in individuals at risk for Alzheimer's disease"
  • JoAnne Robbins, PhD and Ianessa Humbert, PhD for their project "Swallowing physiology and Neurophysiology in Alzheimer's disease and Lewy Body Disease"
  • Randal Tibbits, PhD for his project entitled "Functional dissection of ATM-CREB signaling pathway in the nervous system"
  • Jerry Yin, PhD for his project "CREB-responsive transcription of APP"