January 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: AmanPreet Badhwar
Impaired structural correlates of memory in Alzheimer's disease mice.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and related dementias are the most common causes of disability in people over 65, affecting over 500,000 Canadians. One factor in the progressive cognitive deterioration in AD could be a decline in how well the brain adapts its structure to changing demands, a process known as neuroanatomical plasticity.
AmanPreet and her research team compared mice with an AD-like disease with normal mice on a set of memory and learning tasks, and measured changes in the size of brain structures using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). She also tested the effects of a proposed drug for AD, pioglitazone, on cerebrovascular function, memory, and neuroanatomical plasticity.
The hippocampus, a brain structure important for memory, enlarged in normal mice after training. The AD mice, however, did not remember as well as the normal mice and showed smaller increases in hippocampal volume. Pioglitazone greatly improved cerebrovascular function, mildly improved memory, but did not improve neuroanatomical plasticity. Together, these findings suggest that reduced neuroanatomical plasticity and impaired function of the blood vessels in the brain both contribute to cognitive decline in AD.
Currently, AmanPreet is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. Her project combines cutting-edge quantitative MRI methods, positron emission tomography and genetics to characterize the extent and nature of metabolic and vascular abnormalities in AD patients. Her goal is to become a professor and conduct translational research bridging basic and applied science to improve the lives of patients with dementia.