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Neuroepidemiology Section

Lenore J. Launer, Ph.D., Chief

The research in the NES is aimed at investigating the interaction among brain pathologies and risk factors; identifying new risk factors for brain aging; developing new hypotheses about AD based on population research; and translating these factors to relevant public health prevention strategies to prevent brain changes leading to dementia.  To address these aims, we have taken a ‘virtual life course’ approach and developed carefully selected cohorts [HAAS, AGES-RS, CARDIA] that are both horizontal (i.e., ranging in baseline age from young adulthood to early late-life) and vertical (i.e., from clinical dementia, MRI measures, cognitive function and if possible, neuropathology), all with longitudinal follow-up. In addition we develop or participate in clinical trials aimed at prevention of cognitive decline [i.e., ACCORD MIND].

Studies in the Neuroepidemiology Section currently focus on understanding the contribution of cardio-vascular and metabolic mechanisms, sub-clinical and clinical disease, genetic risk, and life style factors to micro-vascular disease, regional brain atrophy patterns, connectivity in the brain, cognition, and dementia, as well as investigating the links between brain disease and other common diseases of old age. We also investigate trajectories of risk factors, and how they relate to different aspects of brain structure and physiology, leading to distinguishing trajectories to a pure AD pathology, mixed, or only vascular-based dementia and cognitive impairment.

Portfolio/Research Areas

  • Brain aging
  • Cardiovascular risk
  • Brain MRI
  • Biomarkers
  • Life course approach
  • Small vessel disease
  • Risk scores
  • Epidemiology

Findings and Publications

Muller M, Sigurdsson S, Kjartansson O, Gunnarsdottir I, Thorsdottir I, Harris TB, van Buchem M, Gudnason V, Launer LJ; Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study Investigators. Late-life brain volume: a life-course approach. The AGES-Reykjavik study. Neurobiol Aging. 2016 May;41:86-92. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2016.02.012. Epub

Mitchell GF, van Buchem MA, Sigurdsson S, Gotal JD, Jonsdottir MK, Kjartansson Ó, Garcia M, Aspelund T, Harris TB, Gudnason V, Launer LJ. Arterial stiffness, pressure and flow pulsatility and brain structure and function: the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility—Reykjavik study. Brain. 2011 Nov;134(Pt 11):3398-407. doi: 10.1093/brain/awr253

Launer LJ, Lewis CE, Schreiner PJ, Sidney S, Battapady H, Jacobs DR, Lim KO, D'Esposito M, Zhang Q, Reis J, Davatzikos C, Bryan RN. Vascular factors and multiple measures of early brain health: CARDIA brain MRI study. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 26;10(3):e0122138. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122138. eCollection

Launer LJ, Miller ME, Williamson JD, Lazar RM, Gerstein HC, Murray AM, Sullivan M, Horowitz KR, Ding J, Marcovina S, Lovato LC, Lovato J, Margolis KL, O'Connor P, Lipkin EW, Hirsch J, Coker L, Maldjian J, Sunshine JL, Truwit C, Davatzikos C, Bryan RN; ACCORD MIND investigators. Effects of intensive glucose lowering on brain structure and function in people with type 2 diabetes (ACCORD MIND): a randomised open-label substudy. Lancet Neurol. 2011 Nov;10(11):969-77. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(11)70188-0.