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School of Medicine and Public Health to Collaborate on $5.5 Million Alzheimer's Study

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health will collaborate with the Medical College of Wisconsin on a four-year, $5.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Aging to study Alzheimer’s disease.


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The study, called the Alzheimer’s Disease Connectome Project, will use the Human Connectome Project approach, which is aimed at constructing a map of the neural connections within and across individuals, to perform brain imaging on 300 elderly individuals. This will be done in an effort to understand how communications between different areas of the brain change as a result of normal aging and of Alzheimer’s disease.


Barbara Bendlin, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and Public Health, and Shi-Jiang Li, PhD, professor of biophysics, and psychiatry and behavioral medicine, and director of the Center for Imaging Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin, are the co-principal investigators of this project.


The study's long-term goal is to develop technology to accurately stage Alzheimer’s disease as it progresses in an individual. Significant irreversible brain damage is already present by the time clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear.



Integrating Human Connectome Project biological markers with molecular, genetic and cognitive biological markers will enable researchers to establish a link between the appearance of any specific biological marker in individuals without symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and the appearance of clinical symptoms over time. The success of the project will open a window of opportunity to intervene with disease-modifying therapy.


“Our study represents a critical step toward the development of personalized medicine for use in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Li. “We will be using integrated cutting-edge functional MRI technologies developed, in part, by professors, scientists and graduate students right here in the Department of Biophysics and in other MCW departments, over the past 25 years. We’re looking forward to working closely with our collaborators at UW-Madison, as they have extensive clinical and imaging expertise. This is an exciting opportunity to advance Alzheimer’s disease research to the next level.”


Bendlin agrees, saying, “We’re excited to carry out this study in Wisconsin. The project will be facilitated by the incredible resources at MCW and the UW-Madison, including technology that will allow us to image the development of plaques and tangles in the brain, features which characterize Alzheimer’s disease. We are also fortunate to have the support of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the opportunity to work with our tremendous group of dedicated center participants in this groundbreaking study.”

Co-investigators include:

  • Piero Antuono, MD; Malgorzata Franczak, MD; Joseph Goveas, MD; Andrew Nencka, PhD; and Yang Wang, MD, PhD, from the Medical College of Wisconsin

  • Vivek Prabhakaran, MD, PhD (site co-PI); Andrew Alexander, PhD; Rasmus Birn, PhD; Cynthia Carlsson, MD; Bradley Christian, PhD; Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, PhD; Kirk Hogan, MD; Sterling Johnson, PhD; Ozioma Okonkwo, PhD; Howard Rowley, MD; and Vikas Singh, PhD, from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health

Other key contributors include:

  • Gang Chen, PhD; Guangyu Chen, PhD; Yu Liu, MS; and B. Douglas Ward, MS, from the Medical College of Wisconsin

  • Sanjay Asthana, MD, Maritza Dowling, PhD, and Shahriar Salamat, MD, from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health

Date Published: 05/05/2016

News tag(s):  researchalzheimer's disease

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School of Medicine and Public Health to Collaborate on $5.5 Million Alzheimer's Study

Last updated: 06/28/2017
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