The Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART), under the direction of Dr. Reisa Sperling, is affiliated with the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Our mission is two-fold: to improve the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) employing more sensitive clinical evaluations, biological markers, and neuroimaging; and to assess promising new treatments for AD.
AD is the most common cause of dementia. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that results in decline in cognitive function, and inability to carry out activities of daily living. Typically, AD begins with impairment in short term memory, and progresses to involve attention and organizational abilities, language, and visual perception. Changes in behavior, including loss of motivation, depression, irritability, and agitation are also common early on in AD. As the population ages, AD is nearing epidemic numbers. One out of every ten individuals over the age of 65 has AD. Early diagnosis and treatment when symptoms are very mild provides the best opportunity to improve and maintain the quality of life of older adults, as well as relieve the tremendous economic burden associated with this condition. In the future, we hope to develop improved diagnostic tests, which will allow us to begin treatment even prior to the occurrence of symptoms.
Our multidisciplinary team at CART is engaged in clinical research. Clinical research is the study of health and illness in people. It is how we learn to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness. In a clinical research study, participants undergo clinical evaluations, such as testing of cognitive function, behavior, and daily functioning, physical exams, blood tests, and brain scans. At CART we conduct two major types of clinical research studies: observational studies, in which participants undergo cognitive and brain imaging tests in order to understand brain aging and improve early diagnosis of AD; and therapeutic clinical trials, in which participants receive an experimental drug or a placebo (sugar-pill or liquid without the active drug ingredients) to test new treatments for AD. It is important to note that both these types of research studies do not constitute clinical care, such as that provided by a treating physician. However, our clinical investigators also work at and with the Brigham Behavioral Neurology Group and the Massachusetts General Hospital Memory Disorders Unit where patients with memory complaints and dementia are evaluated clinically.
At CART, we are conducting studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Alzheimer’s Association, and pharmaceutical companies. We are currently enrolling older individuals with normal cognition or mild memory trouble, and patients who have been diagnosed with AD in multiple studies.
We welcome you to contact us at CART and help us in the battle against AD.