Inside the Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP)


This year, the Alzheimer Society is very
pleased to be celebrating 28 years of funding over fifty million dollars in
grants and awards within Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research. Within the Alzheimer Society Research Program, we fund two streams of research: quality of
life and biomedical. We support investigators from all levels of their
research career, from Master’s Awards, Doctoral Awards, Postdoctoral Fellowships, New Investigator Grants, Career Change Grants and Research Grants. The aim of
our program is to attract and retain investigators within the field of
dementia research. In order to make funding decisions, the Alzheimer
Society focuses on conducting peer review panel meetings. This involves
bringing together experts within the field who adjudicate each application
that’s received. “I’m at McGill at the Montreal Neurological Institute. I will add that…I think the Career Change Award last year was probably me.” “…it’s my first time here on the panel. I have been funded by the Alzheimer Society before which I’m very grateful and
am currently, so I’m very pleased to be here.” “Hi I’m Joel Watts, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases. This is my second year on the panel, I’m also currently funded, so thanks to the Alzheimer Society for that. My work is, my background…” “…so my field of study is environmental epidemiology, so we’re looking at things like exposure to air pollution, access to parks and green spaces, and there’s an interesting number of studies that have come out recently that have shown associations between traffic-related air pollution and onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” “We understand really more and more how the brain connects to the rest of the body. There is a lot of research going on that provides more and more evidence that we cannot look only into the brain to understand what’s
happening in Alzheimer’s disease, but that we have also to look very carefully at
the blood, at the liver and other factors and I think there’s a lot of new
knowledge that will come up, and things that we will learn from it that will help us to move forward.” “I find conducting arts-based research very powerful and there are different reasons why I enjoy it. For
one thing, people with dementia who are no longer able to speak with words are often able to express themselves in different ways, and we have found that
the arts provide another opportunity, another way, another vehicle
for people to express their life experiences and quality of life.” “It’s important to help us to understand giving treatment is not just for memory deficit, but also for different parts of the brain function, including
depression-related symptoms, sleep disorders, and so on. So I think that will
provide much better care for Alzheimer’s disease patients.” “…I do a lot of work on how clients relate to people, with caregivers, and how we relate back, and
we’ve just published a paper looking at, sort of, effective ways to communicate
with persons with dementia, because they have linguistic and cognitive challenges,
and it became very clear to us that we really don’t do a very good job of
checking for their hearing and vision abilities. So when you have somebody in a long-term care environment that’s sort of moderately or severely impaired, it’s
very hard for us to know, ‘Can you hear and see us?’ and I thought, ‘Wow, I made an assumption, as a nurse, that we’re focusing on the communication piece, but
wow, we forgot about the sensory impairment part.’ So right now we’ve got a
grant, and we’re truly trying to look at a simple way to screen for hearing and vision for this population.” “I think that there’s not gonna be one answer, that it’s gonna take multiple treatments. For instance, we need to be able to stop sort of the causative events in the brain, but the realities are that when the disease is first recognized, that already damage has
been occurring in the brain, so I think that’s gonna need to be in combination
with advances in things like regenerative medicine, or stem cell
technology, gene editing technology, things like that which will have to come
together to sort of provide the ultimate cure for Alzheimer’s disease.” “Even further along, as people move closer even to the end of life, we still know that
connection is possible. And so that to me is hugely important because we cannot
underestimate the power of that human connection and the impact that has on
all of our quality of life.”

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