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Advances in Alzheimer's Disease & Related Dementias Research

NIA is the primary Federal agency supporting and conducting Alzheimer’s disease research. The Institute also supports much work on cognitive health and related dementias. Below is a listing of some of the most significant NIA-supported research findings about cognitive health, Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementias from the last ten years. Advances such as these continue to push researchers ever closer to one day discovering how we may effectively prevent and treat dementia.

Research Advances on Cognitive Health, Alzheimer's Disease, and Related Dementias
Advance Description of research finding Link to publication
Benefits of cognitive training
Training on specific reasoning and speed of processing tasks—two key indicators of cognition—can improve performance on those tasks under controlled conditions. Benefits on reasoning were shown to last at least five years, while benefits on speed of processing persisted for up to ten years. Ten-year effects of the advanced cognitive training for independent and vital elderly cognitive training trial on cognition and everyday functioning in older adults (Jan. 2014)
Improving health outcomes for Alzheimer’s caregivers
The REACH II (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health) study found the first effective support intervention to improve the health and well-being of Alzheimer’s caregivers in an ethnically-diverse population. The intervention is currently being translated through the Veterans Administration, with participating centers in fifteen states.

Impact of the REACH II and REACH VA Dementia Caregiver Interventions on Healthcare Costs (May 2017)

Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Delivery of the Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health II Intervention (June 2016)
Early identification of Alzheimer’s and related dementias biomarkers

Recent NIA-supported research has greatly advanced the ability to detect changes that can occur years, even decades, before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s and related dementias appear. For example, researchers are now able to image both beta amyloid and tau in living humans and can detect changes in these factors before symptom onset. Researchers have also characterized changes in the sense of smell as an early indication of cognitive impairment.

Association of In Vivo [18F]AV-1451 Tau PET Imaging Results With Cortical Atrophy and Symptoms in Typical and Atypical Alzheimer Disease (April 2017)

Odor identification and Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in clinically normal elderly (May 2015)
Genetic factors related to Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers have identified more than 25 additional genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease and what role they may play. Discovering these pathways will help researchers identify possible targets for drug and nondrug interventions to stop or prevent the disease. For example, a number of genes involved in inflammation have recently been associated with Alzheimer’s and may serve as therapeutic targets in the future. Variant of TREM2 associated with the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (Jan. 2013)

Advancing Research Through Collaborations

One way NIA supports Alzheimer’s research is by collaborating with external groups, including other federal agencies, biopharmaceutical companies, and non-profits. Find a listing of some of the largest collaborations below.

Advancing Research Through Collaborations
Collaboration Description of collaboration Link to publication
Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI)
ADNI is a public-private partnership established to develop a multi-site longitudinal, prospective, naturalistic study of normal cognitive aging, mild cognitive impairment, and early Alzheimer’s disease. Now in its 13th year, ADNI continues to develop and integrate new technologies to achieve these goals. For example, research from ADNI led to the development of methods for early detection of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI)

Comparison of neuroimaging modalities for the prediction of conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s dementia (Jan. 2014)

Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP)
AMP is a bold venture between NIH, ten biopharmaceutical companies, and multiple non-profit organizations to transform the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments by jointly identifying and validating promising biological targets of disease. AMP AD is particularly focused on developing new diagnostics and therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. The program seeks to shorten the time between the discovery of potential new drug targets and the development of new drugs for Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention. AMP AD integrates analysis of large-scale molecular data from human brain samples with network modeling approaches and experimental validation, while enabling rapid, broad sharing of data and analytical tools across the entire research community. Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP)—Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API)
API is an international effort to help identify pre-symptomatic treatments or interventions that will postpone, slow, or prevent Alzheimer’s disease progression. This focus on prevention launched a new approach to Alzheimer’s research by evaluating the most promising therapies at the earliest possible stage of the disease process in cognitively normal people who, based on age and genetic background, are at highest risk of developing Alzheimer’s symptoms. The goal of API is to identify pre-symptomatic treatments or interventions that will postpone, slow, or prevent disease progression. Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API)