Announcements

  • February 22, 2017

    The Brown University Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research is pleased to announce that new data are available for download on LTCFocus.org! This update provides data through 2015 and links data over time from CMS sources to individual LTC facilities. Please visit LTCFocus.org to download the data or for more information. Also be sure to check out their updated Research Findings section, which references recent articles that have used the LTCFocus data, as well as other research by the Center for Gerontology team

  • February 22, 2017

    The Population Refernce Bureau (PRB) is a non-profit organization that informs people around the world about population, health, and the environment, and empowers them to use that information to advance the well-being of current and future generations. It publishes an e-newsletter series entitled, "Today's Research on Aging," which is intended to increase awareness of research results relevant to aging and their application to major public and private decision-making. Previous topics have included longevity research, family caregiving, elderly immigrants in the U.S., and more! Please visit the e-newsletter home page for recent and archived issues, and to subscribe to the newsletter.

  • February 13, 2017

    Get up to speed on the latest in Alzheimer’s and dementia, and learn what you need to know to inform, educate, and empower community members, people with dementia, and family caregivers.

    Presented by the National Institute on Aging (NIA/NIH), the Administration for Community Living (ACL), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

    Free continuing education credit is available (CNE, CEU, and CECH)!

    Webinar 1: Alzheimer's and Dementia Resources You Can Use

    Wednesday, March 1, 2017

    1:00-2:30pm Eastern Time/Noon-1:30 Central Time/11:00am-12:30pm Mountain Time/10:00-11:30am Pacific Time

    To register: go to nih.webex.com, enter event # 628 629 619

    Join us for an update on Alzheimer's and dementia issues and resources, including:

    • What's new with consumer, caregiver, and professional resources on dementia
    • Helpful resources on areas of special interest:
      • Veterans and their caregivers
      • Financial exploitation
      • Depression & dementia
    • How the federal government is implementing the National Alzheimer’s Plan, including the overall direction of the plan and its 2017 changes

    Presenters:

    • Tanya Friese, DNP, RN, CNL USN (Ret.), Assistant Professor, College of Nursing and Educational Coordinator, Road Home Program, Rush University Medical Center
    • Peter Lichtenberg, PhD, Director, Institute of Gerontology and Professor of Psychology, Wayne State University
    • Lisa McGuire, PhD, Lead, Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging Program, CDC
    • Mark Snowden, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington
    • Amy Wiatr-Rodriguez, MSW, Aging Services Program Specialist, ACL
  • January 30, 2017

    The NIA Division of Behavioral and Social Research is pleased to announce the addition of three excellent new members of the professional staff who have started work in recent weeks.

    Elena Fazio, PhD, Health Scientist Administrator, will be working primarily on projects supporting the goals of the National Alzheimers Plan of Action, including serving as program officer for grants related to long-term supports and services for the elderly. Elena was previously a Social Science Analyst for the US Administration for Community Living, where she had a wide variety of responsibilities related to programs, evaluation, and data collection on aging and disability. Among her many accomplishments there, she led a redesign of the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and managed improvements in data collection and reporting for ACL’s State Program Reports. Elena has planned workshops, written issue briefs, and led task forces on a wide range of topics relevant to NIA, including the workforce for community care, chronic disease self-management, end-of-life care, and LGBT health. Before joining ACL, she was staff director for the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-related Statistics, of which NIA is a founding member. As a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Maryland, she was project director for the NIA-funded Aging, Stress and Health program, for which the late Leonard Perlin was PI. Elena’s PhD in Sociology was awarded by the University of Maryland (with a dissertation on “Role Occupancies, Physical Health and the Diminishment of the Self-Concept in Later Life”), and she has BA’s in Psychology and in Human Services from Villanova University. Her published research deals with stress, mental and physical health, and health disparities.

    Amelia Karraker, PhD, Health Scientist Administrator, will be managing a portfolio in demography and social epidemiology of aging. She comes to us from Iowa State University, where she was an Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies. Prior to that, she was an NIA Postdoctoral Fellow at the Population Studies Center, University of Michigan. Her research has drawn on many of the major NIA-funded data resources, including the Health and Retirement Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, and the National Social Life Health and Aging Project. Her own research interests include intergenerational support, marriage and financial security of the elderly, and psychosocial factors and health across the life course, and she has published in leading journals and given award-winning presentations to the major societies. Her PhD in Sociology was awarded by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was an NIA pre-doctoral trainee, and her BA with honors by the University of Chicago. Amelia is a past participant in both the RAND Summer Institute and the Butler-Williams Scholars program.

    Dana Plude, PhD, Deputy Director of NIA/BSR, previously held senior positions in the NIH Center for Scientific Review , most recently as Deputy Director of the Division of Receipt and Referral. He has had a key role in areas of science central to NIA’s mission, for example, serving as Acting Director of the Division of AIDS, Behavioral and Population Sciences and as Chief of the Biobehavioral and Behavioral Processes Integrated Review Group. Before joining NIH, Dana was Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Psychology, where he won several teaching awards. He also has private-sector experience as an SBIR grantee, having served as vice president for gerontological research for Compact Disc Inc. Dana’s PhD in Psychology was awarded by Syracuse University, and he had an individual NIA post-doc fellowship at the Boston VA outpatient clinic. His own research interests are in aging, selective attention, and memory, the role of attention in moderating age decrements in memory, and cognitive rehabilitation in aging. He has served as a reviewer for NIA, NIMH, and CSR, and has played an active role in professional societies.

  • January 19, 2017

    A person’s life expectancy is known to vary with chronological age, risk factors such as smoking, and health conditions such as heart disease. Add to that list a person’s “epigenetic age”—an estimate of biological age based on changes in DNA methylation at particular locations along the genome—according to a study that analyzed data from more than 13,000 individuals. The results of the study, supported and conducted in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), appeared in the Sept. 28 issue of Aging.

    Led by Steve Horvath, Ph.D., Sc.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, a team of researchers from the United States, Europe, and Australia analyzed data from 13 population-based studies, including NIH’s Women’s Health Initiative, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study, and NIA’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. They found that the difference between a person’s epigenetic age and chronological age predicted his or her risk of mortality, independent of known mortality risk factors. About 5 percent of adults aged substantially faster than others (i.e., epigenetic age was more than 10 years older than chronological age), leading to a nearly 50 percent increased risk of death.

    The results were adjusted for mortality-related risk factors, including smoking, obesity, and health conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The associations also held across sex and racial groups, as the analysis encompassed data from 13,089 non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and blacks.

    The study adds to the growing body of research looking to identify biomarkers that help describe different aspects of biological age. More research is needed to better understand the process of epigenetic aging and how it affects the contributors to mortality.

    Reference: Chen B.H., et al. DNA methylation-based measures of biological age: meta-analysis predicting time to death. Aging. 2016;8(9):1844-1865.

  • January 19, 2017

    Studies show that most short-lived species, such as yeast cells, benefit from calorie-restricted diets. Could the same be true for species that live longer? Researchers in two parallel studies—one conducted by the National Institute on Aging and the other by the University of Wisconsin—explored the life-prolonging and health effects of a calorie-restricted diet in rhesus monkeys but arrived at differing results. To resolve the discrepancy, researchers teamed up to compare their data and study designs.

    The University of Wisconsin (UW) study found that rhesus monkeys that were fed a calorie-restricted diet, which contained 30 percent fewer calories than a control group’s diet, survived to about 28 years for males and about 30 years for females—above average for such primates in captivity. In contrast, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) study found no significant effect of calorie restriction on survival.

    As they age, rhesus monkeys are vulnerable to many of the same diseases as humans, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Data from both studies showed fewer age-related health conditions in the calorie-restricted groups compared to controls.

    In the new study, published online Jan. 17 in Nature Communications, researchers compared data from the two previous studies and provided updated longitudinal comparisons. They presented several factors that likely contributed to the different outcomes, including diet composition, feeding regimens, age of onset, and genetic background.

    NIA fed their monkeys a naturally sourced diet comprised of varied protein sources, while the UW diet was purified with limited ingredients and contained a significantly higher amount of sucrose compared to the NIA diet. Additionally, the different timing of feeding and access to food may have also contributed to different results. The UW cohort was more homogenous in age and genetics than the NIA cohort, complicating some comparisons. Finally, the UW monkeys were adults of Indian origin, while NIA’s included both young and old monkeys of Indian and Chinese origin.

    Given the similarities between rhesus monkeys and humans, the beneficial effects of calorie restriction on health and life span could also be observed in humans, researchers concluded. However, more research is needed to study how a diet with fewer calories impacts humans as they age.

    Reference: Mattison, J.A., et al. Caloric restriction improves health and survival of rhesus monkeys. Nature Communications. 2017;8:14063.

  • January 13, 2017

    Mark your calendars April 6-7 for the upcoming Cognitive Aging Summit 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.

    Researchers from across the country will gather to discuss promising areas of research into age-related brain and cognitive changes, with a special focus on neuroplasticity, compensation, resilience, and reserve. The two-day meeting will build on priorities and research directions identified at the last two Cognitive Aging Summits held in 2007 and 2010.

    Information and Registration

    Visit the Cognitive Aging Summit website to register and for more information about the Summit. Capacity is limited and registration will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. A video recording of the proceedings will be made available after the Summit.

    The Summit is convened by the National Institute on Aging at the NIH and made possible by the McKnight Brain Research Foundation through a generous grant to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

  • December 29, 2016

    Animal study tests novel way to influence Alzheimer's-related brain changes

    Gamma brain waves—electrical charges that help link and process information from all parts of the brain—are known to slow down in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease and other neurological or psychiatric disorders. NIH-funded researchers wanted to better understand the relationship between changes in gamma rhythms and Alzheimer's-related cellular changes.

    They discovered that exposing an Alzheimer's mouse model to flickering LED lights could stimulate gamma waves, which not only reduced levels of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain—a hallmark of the Alzheimer's—but boosted the clearance of harmful debris by microglia cells. This finding, published online Dec. 7 in Nature, provides new insight about a possible noninvasive approach to treating Alzheimer's disease.

    The findings from a research team led by Dr. Li-Huei Tsai at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, are preliminary but highlight the promise of optogenetics, a biological technique that uses light to control and monitor the activities of neurons that have been genetically modified to be extra-sensitive to light in animal models.

    Using a strip of LED lights that flickered at different speeds, the researchers found that a single, hour-long treatment of light flashing at 40 hertz increased gamma waves and reduced beta-amyloid levels by half in the visual cortex of mice in the very early stages of Alzheimer's. Within 24 hours, however, amyloid levels returned to normal in this brain region, which processes information from the eyes. When the scientists exposed mice with even higher levels of amyloid buildup to 1 hour of flickering light per day over 7 days, the number of amyloid plaques and levels of free-floating amyloid decreased. The treatment also ramped up the efficiency of microglia, reducing the number of amyloid plaques and free-floating amyloid.

    More research in animal models is needed to determine how long these effects last, but the proof-of-concept findings will inform the understanding of the various factors involved in Alzheimer's disease onset and progression.

    Reference: Iaccarino, H.F., et al. Gamma frequency entrainment attenuates amyloid load and modifies microglia. Nature. 2016 Dec 7;540(632):230-235.

  • December 9, 2016

    Why does our ability to remember fail as we age? Is age-related memory loss normal, or a sign of something worse, like Alzheimer’s disease? A new study in rats suggests that part of the answer may rest on how effectively different parts of the aging brain ‘talk’ to each other. This has been a difficult problem to study in people because the earliest brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease can occur a decade or more before clinical symptoms. To learn more, NIA researchers teamed up with brain imaging experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to study how brain networks change during aging in rats, in the absence of neurodegenerative disease. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 10, 2016.

    Led by Dr. Jessica Ash of NIA, and Dr. Hanbing Lu of NIDA, the researchers used a rat model in which—like people—some older rats develop memory impairment and others don’t. Next, functional brain imaging examined the default mode network—an interconnected group of brain regions that is active when we rest and let our minds wander or daydream. There were two main findings. First, a dramatic loss of neural network connectivity between brain regions was found in older rats with memory impairment compared with young rats. Second, and perhaps more important, the brains of cognitively healthy older rats displayed a distinct neural network signature, different than the pattern in either young rats or older rats with memory impairment. These findings suggest that healthy cognitive aging is not simply a matter staying young, but may depend on successful network remodeling in the aged brain.

    The study also suggests that interventions aimed at engaging the brain’s ability for adaptive change may help promote optimally healthy cognitive aging. Further research will be needed to see how these insights might apply in the investigation of cognitive impairment in older people.

    Reference: Ash, J.A. et al. Functional connectivity with the retrosplenial cortex predicts cognitive aging in rats. PNAS. Published online Oct. 10, 2016.

  • December 5, 2016

    Dementia prevalence among Americans age 65 and older decreased significantly between 2000 and 2012, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on November 21, 2016. Results from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study (HRS) found that dementia prevalence decreased from 11.6 percent in 2000 to 8.8 percent in 2012, representing a relative decrease of about 24 percent.

    Dr. Kenneth M. Langa of the University of Michigan and colleagues analyzed responses from approximately 10,500 HRS participants aged 65 or older in 2000 and 2012. They found that more years of education were associated with the decline in prevalence, but could not completely explain it. The average number of years of education increased from 11.8 to 12.7 between the cohorts. The decrease is similar to reports from other recent surveys. In this study, the decrease in dementia prevalence was noted for both men and women, despite an increase between 2000 and 2012 in cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

    The authors note that it will be important to continue to monitor the incidence and prevalence of dementia as the number of older adults, who are most at risk, continues to grow in coming decades. The findings from this study suggest rates of dementia can move in a positive direction, but more research will be needed to pinpoint the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors that directly influence the development of and reduced risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

    The HRS, launched in 1992, is a longitudinal study of people 50 and older funded by the NIA with contributions from the Social Security Administration. It currently follows more than 22,000 individuals, collecting data every two years, from pre-retirement to advanced age. The study consists of extensive interviews with participants, who are asked detailed questions about their health, economic status, social factors, cognitive ability, and life circumstances. The interviews also include a set of physical performance tests, body measurements, blood and saliva samples, and a psychosocial questionnaire.

    Reference: A Comparison of the Prevalence of Dementia in the United States in 2000 and 2012 by Kenneth M. Langa, et al. JAMA Internal Medicine. November 21, 2016.

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