• 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.

  • June 26, 2013

    The NIA views support for research career development and pre and postdoctoral fellowship training as a priority. The availability of funds to support career development (K) and fellowship training (F, T, and NRSA) awards is critical to the advancement of the next cadre of scientists conducting research on aging and age-related disorders.

    This year’s sequester budget cut provided us with a real dilemma: do we fund fewer new awards or do we cut the funding of researchers with existing awards? Chyren Hunter, Deputy Director and Training Officer in NIA's Division of Extramural Activities, describes the decisions made.

    Read the full blog post: Career development awards and fellowships: of paylines and priorities

  • June 20, 2013

    The report from the meeting entitled Network On Reversibility: Mid-Life Reversibility Of Early Established Biobehavioral Risk Factors is now available on the BSR website under Workshop reports.

  • June 15, 2013

    Brain imaging and spinal-fluid testing can help predict which cognitively normal older people will develop Alzheimer’s disease as many as 7.5 years before symptoms appear, according to a new study supported in part by the NIA. The findings confirm the power of biomarkers as predictors of disease risk in the earliest, symptom-free stages of Alzheimer’s disease. These biomarkers may prove to be valuable tools in testing promising treatments in future studies.

    While not typically used in clinical practice, investigators worldwide are studying, refining, and standardizing biomarkers aimed at identifying who is at risk for developing Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia in older adults. The biomarkers in this study, published May 7 in Neurology, included positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the brain to detect deposits of the telltale protein beta-amyloid, as well as levels of beta-amyloid and another protein, tau, found in cerebrospinal fluid.

    The research team, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, tracked the cognition of 201 dementia-free volunteers, ages 45 to 88, at the school’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. The researchers found that abnormal levels of biomarkers identified in PET scans and lumbar punctures could predict who would develop cognitive impairment among the volunteers who were followed for an average of 3.7 years, but in some cases as long as 7.5 years.

    Some 28 volunteers (14 percent) of the group developed memory loss and other signs of cognitive impairment. Abnormal levels of all biomarkers predicted the development of Alzheimer’s dementia equally well, the study found. Older participants, men, and African Americans who developed dementia did so faster than those who were younger, female, and white, the researchers report. In a few cases, participants with abnormal biomarker levels remained cognitively normal, perhaps because of “cognitive reserve,” the ability of some brains to cope with or stave off decline.

    Reference: Roe CM, et al. Amyloid imaging and CSF biomarkers in predicting cognitive impairment up to 7.5 years later. Neurology 2013;80(19):1784-91.

  • June 19, 2013

    Subject: Dr. Owen Wolkowitz July 11 at the GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG) summer seminar

    When: Thursday, July 11, 2013, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

    Where: Lipsett Amphitheater, Building 10, NIH

    Title: "Getting Old Before Our Time: Psychiatric Illness and Accelerated Cell Aging"

    The Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG) cordially invites you to its summer seminar, featuring Dr. Owen Wolkowitz. Dr. Wolkowitz is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco and Director of the Psychopharmacology Assessment Clinic. His teaching, clinical work and research are in the areas of stress, depression, and anxiety disorders. His interests include the effects of stress and stress hormones on the brain and behavior, as well as the identification of mechanisms underlying depression, which may lead to the discovery of new treatments. Dr. Wolkowitz and colleagues have developed a detailed model of mechanistic pathways leading from stress to psychiatric illness, representing effects of steroid and neurosteroid hormones, oxidative stress, neurotrophic factors, inflammatory responses, changes in telomeres and telomerase and genetic polymorphisms. They are now conducting additional studies to test this model and to explore the cumulative neuronal damage in the hippocampus.

    The GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG) was formed to enhance opportunities for discussion of the intersection between the biology of aging and the biology of disease and conditions that are of interest across ICs. It is focused on basic biology, but with a longer view towards translation. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the GSIG web site (

    The seminar will be videocast at and archived in the GSIG web site.

    Sign Language Interpreters will be provided. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodation to participate in this event should contact Dr. Jovier Evans at or at 301/443-1369 or Dr. Ron Kohanski at or at 301.496.6402.