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Dr. Karen Rodrigue


Brain Iron Accumulation and Possible Links to Dementia

DALLAS -- Nov. 7, 2016 -- In support of her understand the effects of iron accumulation in the brain and evaluate iron as a possible indicator of neuropathological aging, Dr. Karen Rodrigue has been awarded $100,000 by the national Alzheimer’s Association.

The new study will investigate the hypothesis that brain iron accumulation is an important age-related marker of risk for cognitive decline and for preclinical brain changes, such as the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque, that develop long prior to the clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Excessive accumulation of heavy metals, such as iron, is associated with oxidative stress and free radical damage in the brain and may serve as a predictive factor of risk for cognitive decline. Specifically, there is evidence from animal research that iron dysregulation may play an important role in the accumulation of beta-amyloid, but this has yet to be examined with neuroimaging techniques in the living human brain.  

 “Since no studies have yet examined the association of amyloid plaque and iron accumulation in the human brain, results from a new study made possible by these funds may shed new light on important neural mechanisms of age-related cognitive decline,” Dr. Rodrigue said. “Establishing these associations in preclinical to mildly impaired adults could allow therapeutic targets to be applied to an earlier part of the lifespan, before symptoms of significant cognitive impairment appear.” The new study will examine both cognitively healthy adults and individuals diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, with a particular focus on individuals with a genetic risk to develop Alzheimer’s.

“I am very grateful to the Alzheimer’s Association for their support on this research effort,” said Dr. Rodrigue. “The receipt of this new investigator grant will enable the launch of a new and important area of study of aging in our laboratory.”

Founded in 2010, CVL is a research center of the University of Texas at Dallas, with scientists studying the cognitive neuroscience of aging and ways to maintain cognitive health for life. Researchers at CVL also investigate how to slow cognitive aging and methods for the early detection of age-related neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. Other research includes studies investigating the cognitive neuroscience of memory, and other fundamental cognitive processes.