Alzheimer’s Research and Resources

April 11, 2012

Katy McNulty is the Outreach Coordinator for NeuroTrials Research. Katy will be guest posting on the NeuroTrials blog, providing readers with a closer look into what it means to participate in a clinical research study.

Alzheimer’s seems to be a topic few people like to discuss. For the many who are unaffected by this illness, it is someone else’s faraway problem that blends indistinguishably into the mass of multiple social issues competing for their attention. For the families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or related dementia, it may be an upsetting subject – a reminder of someone who is slipping away a little more every day.

Even physicians have been known to be hesitant to diagnose patients with the “A word” due to the emotional ramifications for the patient and family. For individuals like me, who lost a grandmother to Alzheimer’s, the topic nudges at my own fears about the genetic predisposition that I may or may not have inherited. However, despite the discomfort, there is a steadily growing movement to raise awareness, develop resources, research new treatments, and someday find a cure.

 Alzheimer’s is currently the 6th leading cause of death in the US. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.4 million people are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is expected to triple by 2050. Those numbers are forcing us to bypass our discomfort and pay attention.

My position as Outreach Coordinator pushes me to learn about all areas of our research – even uncomfortable topics like Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, my education has included the discovery of several community resources for our aging population that I never knew existed.

For example, Fulton County’s Office on Aging provides multiple services including Adult Day Programs, Caregiver Support Groups, and Transportation Services. Senior Services of North Fulton operates neighborhood senior centers, facilitates Meals on Wheels, and provides advocacy, referrals, and in-home services. There are several other independent facilities that provide adult day programs in their area, such as Plymouth Harbor in Northeast Atlanta and Aloha to Aging in East Cobb, which also provides educational programs and an Alzheimer’s support group.

The Alzheimer’s Association is vast resource of online information, including a Virtual Library with over 5,000 books, journals, videos and CDs, and a nationwide trial finder for people interested in Alzheimer’s research studies. The Georgia chapter provides local support groups, education programs, and training for senior service professionals.

There are several agencies around Atlanta, such as Hurley Elder Care Law and Solutions for Seniors, that can help families navigate complex issues from legal and custodial assistance, to evaluating patient needs and making recommendations for community resources. Multiple assisted living facilities, specialized memory care facilities, in-home companions, and visiting nurses are available for a wide range of incomes. The Senior Resources Directory offers a website and an annually printed directory that lists every imaginable senior service around the Metro Atlanta area.

NeuroTrials Research is grateful to align ourselves with such an amazing community of resources. We’ve been conducting Alzheimer’s disease research in Atlanta for over 10 years. We would be unable to complete clinical trials without the participation of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. Our community helps to support our research by spreading the word about available opportunities, and educating potential participants about the importance of clinical trials. Without clinical trials, researchers would be unable to develop new treatments or potential cures for Alzheimer’s.

We are currently conducting two research studies for Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. For more information about these studies, visit the web pages for study 1 and study 2.

While Alzheimer’s may still be an uncomfortable topic for most of us, I appreciate the individuals and organizations throughout Atlanta who are willing to provide information and promote advocacy, always pushing toward a cure. Thank you for all that you do!


Sleep Busters- Innocent Habits That Might Be Wrecking Your Sleep

March 27, 2012

Do you often lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering why you just cannot sleep?

NeuroTrials Research CEO Dr. Russell Rosenberg spoke with Fox5 Atlanta about what habits could cause sleepless nights. Your diet plays an important role in your sleep process, and it is important to not eat heavy, calorie-laden or spicy meals close to bedtime.

“Don’t eat a pepperoni pizza before bed, a very spicy Mexican food necessarily,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “You want to avoid those spicy foods because they can cause reflux where stomach acids and so forth back up and that causes you a lot of disrupted sleep.”

Watch Dr. Rosenberg’s full list of tips below.

FOX MEDICAL TEAM: Sleep Busters:

How Exercise May Stave Off Alzheimer’s

February 20, 2012

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. There are currently no cures or treatments for the disease. 

ImageHowever, a study from the January issue of The Archives of Neurology suggests a simple way to prevent or alter the course of Alzheimer’s. Even better, the suggestion is free, and involves no trips to the doctor or pharmacist. Exercise. A daily walk or jog is believed to help some people prevent or reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

For the experiment, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recruited 201 adults, ages 45 to 88, who were part of a continuing study at the university’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Some of the participants had a family history of Alzheimer’s, but none, as the study began, showed clinical symptoms of the disease. They performed well on tests of memory and thinking.

After a variety of tests and brain scans, the pool was narrowed down to 56 participants who test positive for APOE-e4. Everyone carries an APOE gene, but scientists have determined that those with a particular variant of the gene, e4, are 15 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. 

For the participants without the APOE-e4 gene, there were few differences in brain plaque between those who exercised and those who did. For participants with the APOE-e4 gene, a significant difference was found in brain plaque based on physical activity. The carriers of the APOE-e4 gene who reported walking or jogging for at least 30 minutes five times per week had brain plaque accumulation similar to the study participants without the -e4 gene. 

In other words, the APOE-e4 gene carriers reversed their inherited risk for developing Alzheimer’s by working out. 

But the findings came with a downside, too. An overwhelming majority of the people in the study did not exercise, and for them, an inactive lifestyle seemed to be accelerating the accumulation of amyloid plaques. Those with the e4 variant who rarely or never exercised had the most plaques, putting them at heightened risk for the memory loss of Alzheimer’s in the years to come.

While many questions remain unanswered about Alzheimer’s, the benefits of exercise continue to play a part in all areas of overall health.

NeuroTrials Research is currently conducting a study on Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more.

Patients Dance to Hold Off Symptoms of Parkinson’s

February 2, 2012

In Bonita Springs, FL a group of Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers come together once per week to dance. While show tunes or Broadway music plays, patients and caregivers do improv moves, ballet techniques, and partner dancing.

The exercise helps to hold back muscle problems that are commonly associated with Parkinson’s Disease. For many people, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease comes as a shock, since symptoms are usually first passed off as a consequence of aging. In addition to decreased motor skills due to Parkinson’s, there are other difficulties a person may not notice at first. Bradykinesia, which slows down movements, and swallowing and speaking can prove more difficult over time.

Currently, there is no definite cure for Parkinson’s disease, which has an estimated 50,000 confirmed cases in the United States. The symptoms of the disease usually occur after the age of 50. However, there are some famous examples of early onset cases. Both actor Michael J Fox, diagnosed in his 30s, and current Texas A&M basketball coach Billy Kennedy, 47, have been open about their early onset, bringing a much needed spotlight to the cause.

As for the dancers, one patient believes the exercise is helping. “All the medications deal with the symptoms of the disease, but there is no cure. We have worked through the disease for 20 years, and I feel there is no better way to retard the progress of the disease than regular exercise,” said Chuck McEwen after a dance class.

Learn more about a new Parkinson’s research study in Atlanta. Another Parkinson’s study is currently pending.


Demystifying Clinical Research

January 27, 2012

ImageKaty McNulty is the Outreach Coordinator for NeuroTrials Research. Katy will be guest posting on the NeuroTrials blog, providing readers with a closer look into what it means to participate in a clinical research study.

As Outreach Coordinator for NeuroTrials Research, my job is to spread awareness of new research studies and help identify possible volunteers. As I talk to members in the community, I consistently find that my greatest challenge is the lack of education about clinical trials.

For many people, the idea of medical research brings to mind images of lab rats, bubbling beakers, and mad scientists. While these are powerful images that make for great movie scenes, I’m happy to reassure you that the research facility I work in every day is a far cry from Frankenstein’s laboratory.

When community members tour our facility for the first time, they seem pleasantly surprised to discover that we are set up a lot like any other medical center – patient waiting areas, medical exam rooms, and a sleep research facility with private rooms that look and feel like hotel rooms. Our investigators are distinguished neurologists, pulmonologists, psychiatrists, sleep specialists, and general practitioners who have their own successful practices, and are actively involved in the medical community.

Our staff makes every effort to help our participants feel comfortable and welcome throughout the course of the study. After successful completion, many of our volunteers request to be contacted about future research opportunities because they had such a good experience at our site.

Research is important to all of us. Without the participation of volunteers, new medications and treatments cannot become available. Research is vital to the progression of medical understanding and treatment advances for everything from our common complaints to our most devastating illnesses.

We are currently conducting clinical trials for Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Narcolepsy, Restless Legs Syndrome, Epilepsy, and Chronic Pain. Some of our more common studies include COPD, Insomnia, and Sleep Apnea.

I welcome you to contact me to learn more about our research studies. I am always happy to provide informational materials, answer questions, and arrange visits to our facility. I am also available to speak to your staff or group about any of our studies, or about research participation in general.

Being out and involved in our community is my favorite part of my position at NeuroTrials. Over the last year or so, I have met some amazing, dedicated people, and had the opportunity to learn about innovative public and private organizations that provide much needed services to our community. I am hoping that this blog will provide a platform to not only discuss and de-mystify research studies, but also highlight some of these inspiring people and services along the way.

Sleep Apnea- Not Just For Men, Says Research

January 25, 2012

When we think of loud snoring, images of our fathers spring to mind. Or maybe you see your mother, sighing and pulling a pillow over her head to combat the roars your dad emitted while sleeping. 

However, sleep apnea and snoring are not just for men. While sleep apnea still affects many more men than women, up to 3% of women do suffer from the sleep disorder. Moreover, a new study found that women who suffer from untreated sleep apnea increase their risk of dying from heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases by more than 10% compared to women who do not suffer from sleep apnea.

The study is published in the Jan. 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The research also found that CPAP treatment in women with severe sleep apnea reduces the risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease. 

The research followed over 1100 women, divided into groups by the severity of their sleep apnea, spanning more than 7 years. At the end of the study, about 4% of the women had died from cardiovascular complications and another 3% percent had died of other causes. 

Of the 41 deaths from cardiovascular disease, 18 were in the group with severe and untreated apnea, while 8 of those with severe but treated apnea died of cardiovascular problems during the follow-up.

Is Your School Bus Driver a Risk to Your Children?

January 6, 2012

Does your child ride the school bus? Check out Dr. Rosenberg’s latest article with the Huffington Post to find out how sleep impacts drivers each day:

imgSchoolBus resized 600Over 480,000 school buses travel the nation’s roads every day. Twenty-six million children, more than half the nation’s school-aged population, rely on the bus to transport them to and from school. Drivers must be patient, focused, and alert to safely transport children each day.

In early December, 17-year-old Emmanuel Williamshad to rouse a snoozing 65-year-old bus driver during an afternoon commute in Tacoma Hills, Wa. From his view in the second row seat, Williams first noticed the driver slowly closing his eyes and nodding off before approaching turns. When the bus started heading off the road, Williams jumped from his seat to wake up the sleeping driver.

Read full article.

Follow all Dr. Rosenberg’s posts.