We’re All In This Together

NIH-supported research aims to better understand Alzheimer’s

Thanks to funding from the National Institutes of Health, including the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and private funds, there are many clinical studies and trials that are helping doctors and researchers discover what causes Alzheimer’s and how to treat it.

One such study is ADNI, or Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. For more than 10 years, ADNI researchers have been studying aging in the brain to better understand Alzheimer’s disease to prevent, treat, and cure it.

“We now know, thanks in large part to studies like ADNI, that the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s can appear in the brain and in some body fluids well before signs of memory loss are evident,” says NIA Director Richard Hodes, M.D. “These discoveries have revolutionized our approach to the study of Alzheimer’s, as we seek to intervene as early as possible in the disease process to delay or even prevent memory loss and other cognitive impairment.”

NIH MedlinePlus magazine talked to Michael Weiner, M.D., principal investigator of ADNI at the University of California, San Francisco, about this research.

“ADNI is one of the largest research projects on Alzheimer’s disease. The purpose is to understand how brain functions change over time,” Dr. Weiner said. “By taking images of the brain and using biomarkers (which are measurements of the biological makeup of the brain) we can track the brain’s structure and see how it works over four disease phases. These include memory issues, ability to process thoughts, losing control of moods and senses, and slowing of the heart and breathing.”

"We now know, thanks in large part to studies like ADNI, that the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s can appear in the brain and in some body fluids well before signs of memory loss are evident." - NIA Director Richard Hodes, M.D.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia: An Overview

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is an illness of the brain that begins slowly and gets worse over time. Abnormal deposits of proteins form plaques and tangles in the brain, and once-healthy neurons stop working, lose connections with other neurons, and die. It affects a person’s ability to remember things, think clearly, and use good judgment.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—or thinking, remembering, and reasoning. It also includes the loss of behavioral abilities that interfere with a person’s daily life and activities. Dementia ranges in severity. In its most severe stage, dementia could cause a person to depend completely on others for basic activities and daily living.