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September 2020

New developments and research findings at BHR!

  • BHR Study Partners help predict dementia risk
  • Repeated head injury tied to increased likelihood of depression
  • Improved Alzheimer’s blood tests could allow fast, cheap diagnosis

Study Partners Help Predict Dementia Risk

Functional decline can help us predict dementia risk. We measure functional decline by assessing how difficult it is for someone to perform simple daily activities like getting dressed, or more complex activities like navigating around a new neighborhood. As part of our study, Brain Health Registry participants and their study partners complete questionnaires that assess functional decline.  But can the online assessment of functional decline tell us as much as more traditional measures collected in person?

To address this question, Dr. Rachel Nosheny, a co-investigator at the Brain Health Registry, and her colleagues, looked at functional decline in 770 older adults in the Brain Health Registry with cognitive impairments diagnosed by a physician. They found an association between study partners’ reports of functional decline and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia. They also found that partner assessments can predict risk of developing Alzheimer’s.


Brain Health Registry Newsletter – September 2020, UCSF Brain Health Registry

These findings demonstrate the usefulness of online measures for assessing dementia risk, and highlight the valuable contributions of study partners. This research also shows that the BHR is an effective tool for researching brain disease and associated risk factors.

Study Identifies Connections Between Head Injury, Cognition, and Depression

A new BHR-based collaborative study sheds light on the relationship between repeated head injuries and long-term cognitive function and depression. For this study, researchers analyzed Brain Health Registry data from over 13,000 Brain Health Registry participants aged 40 and older. They found that repetitive head injury was associated with increased cognitive impairment and depression. These findings suggest that injuries to the head throughout a person’s life, whether from accidents or from playing sports, can have consequences further down the line.

Brain Health Registry Newsletter – September 2020, UCSF Brain Health Registry

Progress in Blood Tests for Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists are also making strides in developing blood tests to aid in Alzheimer’s Disease Current methods for diagnosing the disease are expensive, and rely on detecting the accumulation of a protein called amyloid in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or using PET scans. New developments that enable the measurement of amyloid and related proteins in the blood, rather than the CSF or by PET scan, may soon lead to faster and cheaper Alzheimer’s diagnostics. The disease might eventually even be diagnosed twenty years before symptoms emerge, when amyloid is already building up in the brain.

The New York Times recently interviewed the Principal Investigator for the Brain Health Registry, Dr. Michael Weiner, who emphasized that the progress on developing accurate, low-cost methods for diagnosis is an exciting breakthrough.

From the entire Brain Health Registry team, we want to thank all those who have participated and supported the Brain Health Registry! Because of you, we can continue to enrich our understanding of long-term brain health and cognition.