• August 28, 2015

    The brains of people who live to age 90 and older—the oldest-old—usually have a mix of pathologies associated with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease-related brain changes are the most common, but other pathologies often found at autopsy include infarcts,Lewy bodies, hippocampal sclerosis, and white-matter disease. For the first time, researchers examined the relationship between the number of pathologies found at autopsy and the severity of dementia in the oldest-old. They found the more pathologiespresent in the brain, the more severe the dementia, and that Alzheimer’s pathology alone was less damaging to cognition than mixed pathologies.

    The study led by Claudia Kawas, M.D., and Maria M. Corrada, Sc.D., University of California, Irvine, involved 183 volunteers in The 90+ Study, one of the largest studies tracking the well-being of the oldest-old in the world. The participants, 70 percent of whom were women, received physical and cognitive testing every 6 months. When they died at an average age of 97, about 54 percent were diagnosed with dementia. Their donated brains were examined for eight different cerebral pathologies.

    The investigators found:

    • Alzheimer’s pathology alone was less likely to result in dementia. Alzheimer’s was found in about the same number of people with dementia (28 percent) and those without symptoms (23 percent).
    • Mixed pathologies, however, increased risk for dementia; they were found in 45 percent of those with dementia and in 14 percent of symptom-free volunteers.
    • Non-Alzheimer’s disease pathologies appeared more likely to result in dementia. People with a single non-Alzheimer’s pathology were 12 times more likely to have dementia than those with no pathology. In contrast, those with Alzheimer’s pathology were 3 times more likely to have dementia than those with no pathology.
    • Dementia prevalence increased with the number of pathologies found in the brain, from 22 percent in people with no pathologies to 95 percent of those with 3 or more pathologies.
    • Dementia severity also increased in direct proportion to the number of pathologies found in the brain. For example, people with mixed pathologies, such as Alzheimer’s hippocampal sclerosis and white-matter disease, had more severe symptoms than those who only had Alzheimer’s pathology.

    Reference: Kawas, C.H., et al. Multiple pathologies are common and related to dementia in the oldest-old: the 90+ Study. Neurology. Epub 2015 Jul 15, 2015.

  • August 26, 2015

    Fasting, the most extreme form of dietary restriction, has been shown to have multiple health benefits in many – but not all – animal models, but may not be a practical or safe long-term intervention for people.  A team of researchers, led by scientists at the University of Southern California, studied the effects of a short-term fasting-like diet in mice and humans to determine potential health benefits.   

    Mice fed a low-calorie, low-protein fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) for 4 days twice a month and allowed to eat freely between FMD cycles experienced a number of health benefits. These included reduced cancer incidence, total fat, and inflammation. In addition, mice in the FMD group performed better on tests of short- and long-term memory, indicating that FMD may improve memory and cognition. On average, mice on FMD also lived 3 months (or approximately 11 percent) longer than mice in the control group.

    To understand whether FMD may have the same advantages in humans as in mice, the researchers conducted a small, 3-month pilot study with 19 healthy volunteers in the intervention arm. Study participants followed a short-term FMD regimen, eating 1,100 kcal on day one, 725 kcal on days two through five, and their regular diet for the remainder of the month. After 3 months, researchers found participants on FMD had a 3 percent reduction in body weight and reduced risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

    The researchers strongly cautioned that the FMD used in the pilot study was an experimental approach, requiring close and continuous medical supervision. More research is needed to determine the effects of FMD, particularly in the long-term.

    Reference: Brandhorst, S., et al. A Periodic Diet that Mimics Fasting Promotes Multi-System Regeneration, Enhanced Cognitive Performance, and Healthspan. Cell Metabolism. July 7, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2015.05.012

  • August 24, 2015

    The National Institute on Aging (NIA), a major research component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is seeking exceptional candidates for the position of Director, Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR). For the full job posting, please visit

  • August 10, 2015

    Much of the research on human aging has been conducted in animal models and in older people. The Dunedin Study in New Zealand, funded in part by NIA, has taken a different approach, studying a group of 1,037 people born in 1972-73 from birth to age 38. Study investigators recently reported that they have identified, differences in the “biological age” of participants, indicating that young adults are aging at different rates.

    The researchers developed and validated two methods to measure aging in young adults. One method applied an algorithm of multiple biological measures, such as blood pressure and cholesterol. .  Using this method, some 38-year-olds appeared biologically older than their peers. A second method assessed the deterioration of several organ systems (heart, lung, kidney, liver, and immune function) over 12 years. They found that some study members aged at a faster rate than others.

    Study members with advanced biological age had poorer physical function and cognitive performance than those with younger biological age. Further, participants with older biological age considered themselves to have poorer health than biologically younger peers. When researchers showed a group of university students photos of study participants of the same chronological age and asked them to rate their age, the students scored the appearance of the biologically older participants as older than that of the biologically younger ones.

    The researchers suggest that future studies of aging continue to follow individuals over the life course to better understand rates of aging, starting from a young age, as well as incorporate repeated biological measures to monitor and predict health states. They also note that therapies to prevent age-related diseases could possibly be implemented earlier in the life course in biologically older people.

    Reference: Belsky, D.W., et al., Quantification of biological aging in young adults, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 6, 2015. Published online ahead of print.

  • July 13, 2015

    In a blog post on the White House Conference on Aging, NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes wrote:

    “The White House Conference on Aging happening today at the White House occurs once per decade. But at the National Institutes of Health, particularly at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), we work on research every day related to understanding the nature of aging, supporting the health and well-being of older adults, and extending healthy, active years of life for more people.”

    Read the rest of the post and find out more about the WHCOA.

  • Because the overall goal of RFA-AG-16-009 “Collaborative Networks to Advance Delirium Research (R24)” is to foster collaborative effort between delirium researchers to form an infrastructure greater than the sum of its parts, NIA program staff held a pre-application webinar/teleconference on August 12, 2015 from 1-2:30PM ED as described below.

    Goals of Webinar/Teleconference

    The purpose of this teleconference is to provide technical assistance to prospective applicants, including an overview of the research program and a discussion of the R24 (Infrastructure/Resource-Related Research Project) grant mechanism used. The teleconference will also provide information on preparing an application, highlight the peer review process, and address participant questions.

    Joining and participating in the webinar and teleconference are optional. Participants may remain anonymous on the teleconference and webinar if they choose.

    Webinar Follow-Up

    The RFA-AG-16-009 Pre-Application webinar was hosted by Drs.Molly Wagster (Division of Neuroscience), Drs. Basil Eldadah and Susan Zieman (Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology) and Dr. Jeannette Johnson (Scientific Review Branch). An overview of the funding opportunity was described by a brief presentation for which the slides are posted here:

    RFA-AG-16-009 Pre-Application Webinar Slides (PPT, 119K)

    Dr. Jeannette Johnson then gave a description of the general and specific review process for submitted application, followed by a question and answer session regarding the funding opportunity. The Pre-Application Webinar was recorded for only internal purposes so that NIA staff could review and subsequently post a consolidated version of questions and answers regarding RFA-AG-16-009 which are posted below.

  • May 15, 2015

    Cognitively normal older adults who report memory problems and have a genetic risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease also have biological evidence of brain changes associated with the disease, a new NIA-funded study reports. The findings tentatively identify a group at risk for developing Alzheimer’s who might benefit from intervention many years before symptoms appear. The study was published online May 7, 2015, in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

    Researchers led by Dr. Andrew J. Saykin of Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, used data from the NIA-supported Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), to analyze Alzheimer’s biomarker measurements and neuroimaging results from 594 older adults. The volunteers were classified into three groups: cognitively normal, significant memory concerns (SMC), and early mild cognitive impairment. The researchers were especially interested in a sample of 90 adults with SMC, whose memory concerns were reported by themselves but not by family members or friends.

    People with SMC who carry the well-known APOE ɛ4 genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s had more biomarker evidence of changes linked to the disease than SMC participants without APOE ɛ4, the researchers found. This biomarker evidence consisted of greater deposits of the beta amyloid protein in the brain, found using amyloid PET imaging, and lower levels of beta-amyloid 1-42 and higher levels of tau, another protein associated with Alzheimer’s, found in cerebrospinal fluid. However, other signs of possible Alzheimer’s disease—lowered brain glucose activity and medial temporal lobe shrinkage—were not associated with APOE carrier status.

    The findings help confirm the influence of APOE ε4 carrier status on Alzheimer’s biomarkers years before symptoms may appear and the importance of beta amyloid accumulation as one of the earliest measurable changes of the disease process.

    Reference: Saykin A.J., et al., APOE effects on Alzheimer’s biomarkers in older adults with significant memory concerns. Alzheimer’s & Dementia. May 7, 2015; doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2015.03.003.

  • May 15, 2015

    Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable illness and death despite the implementation of national policies, behavioral programs, and pharmacological treatments that have helped decrease smoking rates in the US. One promising line of research in smoking cessation relies on findings from the field of behavioral economics, which applies what we know about how people make health-related decisions to the design of health-behavior change interventions.


  • April 24, 2015

    The Spring 2015 issue of Connections, the e-newsletter from NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, is now available!

    In the latest issue:

    • Get a recap of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2015, which is setting the direction for future treatment and prevention research.
    • Find out what NIH’s “bypass” budget means for Alzheimer’s disease research.
    • Learn about recent G-7 and WHO gatherings to address global dementia research.
    • Check out new resources and the latest findings from NIA-funded research
    • Browse a list of clinical trials now recruiting.

    Want to get future issues of Connections and other Alzheimer’s and aging research news by e-mail? Sign up today! And follow us on Twitter @Alzheimers_NIH.

  • April 21, 2015

    The Bethune-Cookman University Petrock College of Health Sciences, Daytona Beach, FL hosted their first Caregivers Symposium. Dr. Vanessa Jones Briscoe, Department Chair for Aging Studies, acknowledges that with the “graying” of America, the demand for more caregivers is escalating. Caregivers assist those who are incapacitated and in need of help. Typically, the person receiving the care has multiple chronic illnesses and requires ongoing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). The University hopes that this annual symposium will help people understand that caregivers’ issues critically impact our communities.

    see caption
    Attorney Kirk T. Bauer, Mr. Almon Gunter, Vanessa Jones Briscoe, Ph.D., ARNP and Carl V. Hill, Ph.D., M.P.H.

    The program featured speakers who shared their expert knowledge with registered attendees:

    • Attorney Kirk T. Bauer, owner Bauer and Associates Attorneys at Law addressed financial and legal matters that caregivers are to consider.
    • And Mr. Almon Gunter, CEO and President of Almon Gunter Motivates, Inc. Mr. Gunter (acclaimed motivational speaker and author) got the audience up and moving! He helped attendees gain a better understanding of how physical activity (crucial for mental and physical well-being), helps us cope with many caregiving responsibilities.
    • The keynote speaker, Dr. Carl V. Hill, Director, Office of Special Populations at the NIA, informed the audience of important details related to aging, collective responses, social support, caregiving and health disparities.
    see caption
    B-CU's Barrigan Tri-County Seniors

    The program also featured an expert panel of geriatric social workers and care managers that discussed fundamental features of effective caregiving. Dr. Deanna Wathington, Executive Dean and Professor of the College of Health Sciences, said that “this symposium is an exciting opportunity for the Bethune-Cookman University Petrock College of Health Sciences to engage community stakeholders about aging and caregiving. “