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Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias take spotlight at NIH workshop

July 26, 2013

NINDS Deputy Director Dr. Walter Koroshetz welcomes attendees to the ADRD workshop.

While most people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, about a third of all cases are caused by other, lesser known brain diseases. In fact, most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may actually have “mixed dementia.” Whatever the causes, as many as 36 million people worldwide are living with dementia, and its burden is enormous.

To better understand these diseases, the NIA and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), also part of the NIH, hosted the “Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias: Research Challenges and Opportunities” workshop on May 1-2 in Bethesda, MD. The workshop featured Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (ADRD) such as Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia—debilitating conditions that impair memory, thinking, movement, and everyday functioning, primarily in older adults.

The meeting brought together researchers and other experts from academia, industry, and nonprofit groups as well as patients and caregivers to help set research priorities and guide scientific research on ADRD for the next 5 to 10 years.

“This is a conference with an action plan. We are not bringing people together to tell us what they have done or to rehash what has been published,” said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of NINDS, the primary sponsor of the workshop, in welcoming remarks. “Is there a direction that needs to be explored that will lead us to something really great for people who are facing dementia? Or maybe there are other directions that we have not yet thought about.”

Workshop scientific chair Dr. Thomas Montine with workshop lead Dr. Roderick Corriveau

“The workshop highlighted many areas for advancing ADRD research,” said Dr. Creighton Phelps, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Centers Program in the NIA’s Division of Neuroscience. “We want to, for example, gain a better understanding of these diseases’ biological and genetic mechanisms, develop diagnostic biomarkers, and conduct clinical studies in diverse populations that will lead to more effective treatments.”

Another priority identified by workshop participants was increasing education and awareness of ADRD, both to help primary care physicians more effectively diagnose and treat the various forms of dementia and to increase awareness among the general public.

The workshop supported a key goal of the 2011 National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) of developing research priorities that will lead to dementia treatments. Recommendations from the workshop will be presented to the NAPA Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services in October.

“We need to stay focused on a short list of highest priorities to be sure that we remain actionable,” said Dr. Thomas Montine, chair of the Department of Pathology at the University of Washington, Seattle, who served as the workshop’s scientific chair.

About 500 people attended the ADRD workshop, which featured 65 speakers. The Alliance for Aging Research, Alzheimer’s Association, Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, and USAgainst Alzheimer’s also supported the meeting.

Page last updated: August 26, 2013