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Early Psychological and Functional Changes


Prior to the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, individuals may experience subtle changes in cognition, emotion, social behavior, or changes in everyday functions, like financial decision making, driving, or medication management. BSR is invested in developing sensitive tools for early detection of these psychological and functional changes. Such tools could inform the development of new diagnostic procedures, identify individuals who might benefit from treatments or preventive interventions, and allow people to take steps to manage important decisions about healthcare, finances, driving, and living arrangements. Measures of early psychological and functional changes, along with biomarkers, could also serve as intermediate outcome measures for AD/ADRD prevention trials.

BSR supports research on the development and application of new approaches for early and/or passive detection or preclinical monitoring of change in cognition, affective function, motivation, social function, decision-making and other behaviors. BSR supports observational studies that document these changes and relate them to their neurobiological, genetic, and physiological underpinnings; as well as studies that develop new assessment tools and adapt them for research or clinical purposes. Of particular interest are studies that elucidate when in the life course and along which dimensions AD/ADRD-related changes in psychological processes or everyday functions diverge from changes observed in normal aging.

BSR goals for this area include:

  • Continue to encourage research that links behavioral, psychological, and social change with additional approaches to early detection of AD/ADRD such as scans and blood tests in its supported research and its large population data infrastructure development.
  • Encourage research that integrates cognitive with non-cognitive motivational and emotional aspects of both normal and abnormal age-related changes in psychological and brain function, as well as with other aspects of mental health.
  • Support development of novel cognitive measurement technologies to accelerate discoveries about changes in normal cognitive function, mild cognitive impairment, and AD/ADRD.

Related AD+ADRD Research Implementation Milestones: 9H, 11D, 11F

Active Projects as of September 2021: Early psychological and functional changes

Research Contacts

Program Contact

Relevant Area(s)

Partha Bhattacharyya

  • Low-cost/passive detection of cognitive decline; artificial intelligence and machine learning
Jonathan King
  • Mobile monitoring of cognitive change and development of new measurement instrument

Elizabeth Necka

  • Social behavior and personality

Dana J. Plude

  • Driving behaviors
  • Mobile assessment of of cognitive change

Luke E. Stoeckel

  • Neuropsychological assessment, digital phenotyping, assessment of decision making

Janine Simmons

  • Early emotional changes

Funding Opportunities

Current funding opportunities related to early psychological and functional changes in AD/ADRD are listed below. In addition, any AD/ADRD-focused application can be submitted to NIA’s parent AD/ADRD R01 and R21 program announcements. Notices of Special Interest associated with these parent FOAs specify high priority behavioral and social research topics. For a list of all of BSR’s active funding opportunities, visit our funding opportunities and applicant resources page.

Research Investments

BSR has supported research projects focused on early psychological and functional changes in AD/ADRD through targeted funding opportunity announcements. Although some of these funding opportunities are no longer active, the topics outlined in the announcements remain priority research areas for BSR. Applications on these topics should be submitted through a relevant active FOA or through NIA’s parent AD/ADRD R01 and R21 program announcements.

Related Workshops & Reports

Behavioral and Social Research and Clinical Practice Implications of Biomarkers and Other Preclinical Diagnostics of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and AD-Related Dementias, June 28-29, 2021

Decadal Survey of Behavioral and Social Science Research on Alzheimer's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease-Related Dementias, August 14, 2019 – July 8, 2020

Leveraging Insights and Approaches from Social and Affective Neuroscience to Promote Adaptive Aging, November 18-19, 2019

Cost-Effective Early Detection of Cognitive Decline, October 25, 2017

Return to BSR AD/ADRD Page

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