• July 30, 2013

    Deposits of a hormone called amylin in the brain may indicate risk for developing dementia and type 2 diabetes, according to a study published online in the Annals of Neurology. The analysis by researchers at the NIA-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of California, Davis, is the first to identify amylin deposits in post-mortem brain tissue from older people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia and diabetes. The findings also indicated that amylin may play a similar role in the Alzheimer’s disease process as amyloid protein, a hallmark of the disorder.

    Amylin (also known as islet amyloid polypeptide) is a hormone expressed and secreted with insulin. It influences blood sugar levels; when too much is secreted, risk for developing diabetes increases. These new findings show that amylin deposits can also build up and form plaques in the brain, similar to amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease.

    The researchers examined post-mortem brain tissue from three groups of volunteers older than 70 years: those who had diabetes and dementia (vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s), those who had Alzheimer’s but no diabetes, and those free of these disorders. Investigators found significant amylin deposits in the brain tissue of people with both dementia and diabetes. Surprisingly, they also found amylin in people with Alzheimer’s but without diabetes—perhaps because these individuals had undiagnosed insulin resistance. The healthy controls had few amylin deposits.

    The study, led by Dr. Florin Despa, may explain why people with diabetes are at risk for dementia. Like amyloid, amylin circulates in the blood and, during the disease process, is overproduced and not cleared normally, building up in the brain. Over time, both proteins lead to the loss of brain cells and brain damage. Amylin buildup in the brain’s blood vessels may also play a role in amyloid buildup and contribute to risk for Alzheimer’s, the study found.

    Reference: Jackson K, et al. Amylin deposition in the brain: A second amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease? Annals of Neurology. Published online June 22, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/ana.23956.

  • October 16, 2014

    On May 22, 2013, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), NIH, in collaboration with the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Association for Psychological Science (APS), convened a meeting of eminent scientists from the fields of psychology and behavioral economics to highlight the potential for social and behavioral research to play a more influential role in the service of public policy, discuss strategies for bringing important research findings to the attention of policy makers, and identify lessons that can be learned from approaches undertaken in the United Kingdom Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team to leverage behavioral research findings, a great deal of which has been from research conducted in the United States. While NIA does not support policy research per se, findings from the basic behavioral and social science research that it does support are an important resource for informing policies that address the multiple causes of the U.S. health disadvantage. The meeting summary (PDF, 849K) and speaker biographies (MS Word, 2.0M) are now available on the BSR workshops page.

  • July 24, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    The NIA summer training program builds the pipeline for the future biomedical research workforce. Our Summer Institute, just renamed the Butler-Williams Scholars Program, provides early to mid-career scientists with a unique opportunity to interact with leaders in the field of aging and health disparities research. Scientists who attend learn how to design strong projects and put together competitive grant applications, as well as develop relationships and networks that often continue long after the week-end goodbyes. In a new blog post, NIA Deputy Director Marie Bernard describes how the training works its magic and how you or your trainees can apply to attend.

    Read the full blog post: Preparing the next generation: announcing the Butler-Williams Scholars Program

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • July 23, 2013

    Evaluating the cognitive status of older patients in the primary care setting is one of the first steps in determining the cause of problems with memory, attention, and other aspects of thinking that can affect their health and well-being. With dozens of instruments available, finding the right ones to use can be a challenge. Now, clinicians and researchers have a new and simple way to find appropriate instruments—through a searchable database from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health.

    The database, available at, contains detailed information about more than 100 published instruments for detecting Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive impairment. It was created by NIA staff in consultation with experts in the field. Many instruments are suitable for outpatient practices and community studies. Each instrument in the database was developed as a cognitive assessment for age-related dementia and has had at least three published studies using the instrument since its debut and at least one publication in the last 10 years.

    Users can search the database by specific criteria, such as time to administer the instrument, the administrator’s level of expertise, cost, and target diagnosis. They can also find instruments that have been evaluated in specific populations and translated into languages other than English. Each instrument is summarized, with references cited and linked for easy access.

  • July 19, 2013

    The National Institute on Aging (NIA) at NIH has named its prestigious Summer Institute on Aging Research after NIA’s first two directors—Dr. Robert N. Butler and Dr. T. Franklin Williams. The week-long training program for early and mid-career scientists will now be known as the Butler-Williams Scholars Program, and participants from here on will be recognized as Butler-Williams Scholars.

    The naming, announced at the conclusion of the 2013 Summer Institute on July 19, is a tribute to the legacies of Butler and Williams in aging research. “Both Dr. Butler and Dr. Williams saw the aging of individuals and society as an opportunity for change and sought to reset our thinking of what advancing age can be,” said Richard J. Hodes, M.D., NIA director. “I am pleased that their names will be permanently linked to this important and forward-looking program.”

    Butler, who came to the NIA as its founding director in 1974, built the framework for a broad research endeavor in basic, clinical and behavioral and social research that remains the core of NIA’s research program today. A geriatric psychiatrist, he was particularly proud of focusing public and research attention on Alzheimer’s disease and dementias. Butler served as director of the institute until 1982. He died on July 4, 2010, at the age of 83.

    Williams came to the NIA in 1983 and developed and further expanded these visionary programs. During Williams’ tenure, the NIA launched several groundbreaking programs, including the Alzheimer's Disease Centers network and the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. He also established the Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Centers, which conduct research on diseases and conditions that threaten independent living. Williams left the NIA in 1991. He died November 25, 2011, one day before his 90th birthday.

    Both Butler and Williams were early and leading proponents of geriatrics as a medical specialty, urging medical schools to focus on research and teaching related to the health care needs of older people. In 1986, highlighting what NIA itself could do to train the biomedical workforce for an aging society, Williams established the Summer Institute on Aging Research.

    The annual Butler-Williams Scholars Program includes lectures, seminars, and small group discussions in research design relative to aging, including issues relevant to aging of ethnic and racial minorities. The week features interactive sessions with NIA staff and leading researchers in a variety of disciplines covering topics on the biology of aging; genetics and Alzheimer’s disease; and health, behavior, and aging. Discussion sessions focus on methodological approaches and interventions, as well as development of research interests and advice on preparing and submitting research grant applications to NIA.

    Applications are accepted from emerging researchers, including those with previously limited involvement in aging research. The program is an offering of the NIA Office of Special Populations, and researchers with an interest in health disparities research are encouraged to apply. Applicants from diverse backgrounds, including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities and women are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.

    Between 25-30 participants are chosen each year. The interaction and networking among the attendees has been a lasting—and fun—part of the program, and participants have already established their own community of “alumni.”

    “Both Drs. Butler and Williams were pioneers in aging research who cared deeply about its future,” said NIA Deputy Director Marie A. Bernard, M.D. “We hope and expect that the Butler-Williams Scholars will become the future leaders in the field, emulating the examples of the program’s namesakes, as innovators and advocates on behalf of older people.”

  • July 17, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation

    NIH Scientific Review Officers often hear from grant reviewers about things that applicants have or haven’t done in their grant applications, and how those applications fare in peer review. Many of the issues are related to grantsmanship: writing a neat, tidy, clear and complete grant application that a reviewer will pay attention to despite having read umpteen other applications in the previous 48 hours. Others are more substantive issues with the science.

    In a new blog post, Rebecca Ferrell, a Scientific Review Officer in the Scientific Review Branch of the NIA Division of Extramural Activities, describes common issues with the human research protections section of the grant application. She identifies key resources for completing the Human Subjects Section and explains what NOT to do.

    Read the full blog post: How to avoid annoying your reviewers—tips from review, part 1

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • July 10, 2013

    The Summer 2013 issue of LINKS: Minority Research & Training is now available online. This twice-yearly e-newsletter is part of NIA’s initiative to address health disparities and support scientists representing underserved populations.

    In this issue:

    • Find out about funding opportunities and other initiatives to encourage diversity in the biomedical research workforce
    • Read about a recent workshop addressing health information needs of American Indian/Alaska Native elders
    • Learn about food insecurity and hypertension
    • Check out NIA’s new blog for the research community
    • Register for a free webinar to learn about dementia in diverse populations
    • Watch a video with Dr. Felipe Sierra discussing the Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group, the role of aging in chronic disease, and plans for an upcoming geroscience summit

    Want to get future issues of LINKS and other NIA news? Choose your interests and sign up today!

    We also invite you to visit NIA’s Minority Aging and Health Disparities web page, where you’ll find information about the Health Disparities Research Persons Network, training opportunities, and more.

  • July 10, 2013

    Maybe you are a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, or a new junior faculty member. You have carefully crafted a fellowship grant application or a career development grant application. Now, you sit on pins and needles hoping to hear that reviewers love what you propose and that the NIA will make an award.

    In a new blog post, Robin Barr, Director of the NIA Division of Extramural Activities, discusses priority scores for fellowships and career development awards. Priority scores are important, but as he explains, they are not the only factors influencing funding.

    Read the full blog post: Does my priority score mean I will get funded? Career development and fellowships

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • June 28, 2013

    Cognitively normal older adults with evidence of early brain changes typical of Alzheimer’s disease fell more often than did their peers without these brain changes, a new study reported online in Neurology. The results suggest that declines in mobility may precede the symptoms of cognitive decline found in Alzheimer’s disease.

    Investigators studied 125 volunteers age 65 and older at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis, to determine how often they fell over the course of 1 year. The participants, mostly white women, recorded their falls in a calendar-journal they mailed monthly to the researchers. Participants reported a total of 154 falls, most of which occurred while walking; the number of falls per person ranged from 0 to 12.

    Participants also underwent brain imaging to detect the protein amyloid in the brain and a lumbar puncture to look for certain proteins in cerebrospinal fluid—biomarkers associated with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. After adjusting for differences in the ability to perform everyday activities, the researchers found that participants with biomarkers indicating greater risk for Alzheimer’s were more likely to fall and to fall sooner, compared with those with less biomarker evidence.

    The results of the study, led by Dr. Susan L. Stark, extend earlier research findings that movement changes precede cognitive changes in people with very early signs of Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment. More research is needed to better understand how falls may help predict risk for and signal onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Reference: Stark SL, et al. Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease and risk for falls. Neurology, Published online June 26, 2013. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e31829d87aa

  • June 27, 2013

    Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can be a tough job with many demands and challenges. To help, the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center offers more than 25 tip sheets—many now available for mobile devices in .epub and .mobi (Kindle) formats.

    The popular tip sheets offer brief, easy-to-understand information on a range of issues, from bathing and driving to disaster preparedness and personality changes. They can help caregivers of people at any stage of the disease—mild, moderate, or severe.

    Users of tablets, smartphones, and e-readers with an e-book app can now view and download select tip sheets for their mobile devices from the ADEAR website at Go to “Caregiving Tip Sheets and Resource Lists” to see the topics and available formats.

    For more Alzheimer’s disease resources, visit, or contact the ADEAR Center at 1-800-438-4380 (toll-free) or The ADEAR Center is a service of the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.