News and Announcements
Read the latest news from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease. The links below take you to articles where you can learn more about our members' latest achievements, awards and honors.
"While we knew that the memories of people with primary progressive aphasia were not affected at first, we did not know if they maintained their memory functioning over years," said study author Dr. M. Marsel Mesulam, director of the Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
One of the patients was a woman who explained that she was having “syntax errors and no articles.” They began collecting other patients with unusual language problems, or aphasia, with no evidence of stroke. Their first six patients were described in a paper published in 1982. That puzzle was the beginning for Mesulam, now at Northwestern University in Chicago and the director of the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Feinberg investigators are breaking down the mechanisms of aging and designing solutions to extend healthy living.
A rare genetic mutation found in patients with Alzheimer’s may provide further insight into the pathologic mechanisms that cause the disease.
A new study provides a missing link between inflammation and protein deposits that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
Lead study author, Eileen Graham of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says they found some people with cognitive resilience. They functioned well in life, but autopsy showed a diseased brain. They found some with the opposite: people who functioned poorly in life but whose autopsy showed very little neuro-degeneration.
As part of a new study to show how music can heal the brain, Clara Takarabe plays her viola virtually for patients who have suffered brain injury or stroke at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Borna Bonakdarpour, MD, shares insight with Lester Holt about the research and patient care.
The Northwestern study was developed by Borna Bonakdarpour, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Clara Takarabe, who has been a substitute violist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years.
"We know people who are getting old, if they're isolated or socially less stimulated, they tend to develop dementia earlier than others,” says behavioral neurologist Borna Bonakdarpour, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician. “So when social activities were stopped when we first started to shelter in place, I started getting phone calls from family members that [their loved ones] were declining.”
Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour, a cognitive neurologist, talks about the music cafe Northwestern University started to help dementia patients during these trying times and a unique partnership with Civitas Ensemble.
Dr. Marsel Mesulam is an Alzheimer’s disease expert at Northwestern University.
“These kinds of tests are very important. They are part of clinical decision making, patient treatment,” Mesulam said. “So if instead of doing PET scans and spinal taps – if we could do a blood test that is widely available, sensitive and specific, and that’s a major advances in the field for everyone.”
Building equitable relationships with community leaders and framing research questions around residents’ priorities is the core principle of community-engaged research, and IPHAM, along with ARCC, have been leaders in the field.
- 06.17.2020Leave it to Northwestern University to bring together talents from its music and medical schools in an effort to "convey the importance of collaborative work between musicians and health care professionals." V.com contributor and Bienen School of Music violin professor Desirée Ruhstrat, Northwestern Medical Orchestra conductor Taichi Fukumura, and pianist and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Feinberg School of Medicine Borna Bonakdarpour join forces for the second movement of W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 20.
- 06.13.2020Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour led the virtual musical initiative with Northwestern Medical Orchestra and Northwestern University Bienen School of Music. The project united University musicians to support colleagues at Northwestern Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and all essential workers. The video performance seeks to provide comfort and healing through music during a difficult time.
While the terms Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably, the two conditions are not the same. Whereas dementia presents with memory loss, behavioral changes, language difficulties or disorientation which affects a person’s ability to function in daily life, Alzheimer’s disease refers to a specific brain pathology, explains Ian Grant, MD, assistant professor of neurology and director of clinical trial operations at the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease is actively researching the rare form of dementia called Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA), which affects language. They began using BlueJeans, one of Northwestern University’s video software solution, to support their “Communication Bridge” study — a speech therapy clinical trial that connects individuals living with PPA and SLPs – and have found that participants living with PPA benefit from doing real-time video intervention sessions with SLPs.
- 04.28.2020Another barrier to care exists for neurology patients with vision, hearing or cognitive issues. These technical challenges aren’t adequately addressed on our current platforms, and we need creative solutions now. Dr. Emily Rogalski in the Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine successfully deployed telemedicine to improve language ability in patients with dementia. Many other groups are now employing similar techniques for their elderly neurological patients.
While people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia gradually lose the ability to speak and to remember, the arts can help ground them, keep them engaged and let them express themselves.
“The arts enrich the quality of life of individuals with memory loss and provide them with a sense of purpose and meaning,” says Darby Morhardt, PhD, LCSW, associate professor in the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern University. “The arts are a mode of expression when cognitive abilities are declining.”
New PET research done by Adam Martersteck, Northwestern Graduate Student and Emily Rogalski, PhD was featured at the Human Amyloid Imaging Conference 2020 "by combining data from multiple PET tracers in longitudinal study cohorts, they are beginning to decipher which regional pathologies provoke particular disease manifestations. The Human Amyloid Imaging conference, held January 15–17 in Miami, showcased the latest findings tying tangles, or plaques, to particular behavioral and cognitive impairments."
Tamar Gefen, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, strongly suggests having an in-depth discussion with a genetic counselor if you’re considering a test. “Before you say ‘I have to know,’ really understand what you’re dealing with, how your life might be affected, and what these tests can and cannot tell you,” she advised.
Partnering with Endeleo are groups such as Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the Alzheimer's Association, the American Heart Association and local medical centers, clinics, colleges and banks. The institute is establishing storefronts offering health information and will install a blood pressure measurement kiosk inside Trinity United Church of Christ. Under the leadership of Rev. Otis Moss III, the church encourages its congregation to explore beyond traditional favorite fried foods and try dishes like baked fish and vegetables.
- 10.14.2019Chronic sleep loss has been associated with higher risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, heart attacks, Alzheimer's, dementia, depression, stroke, psychosis and suicide. As Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine in the department of neurology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, says, "Sleep deprivation ... doesn't only affect the brain -- it affects all your other organs. ... Think about it as punching your other organs."
- 10.09.2019While some people might not want to know about the early signs of Alzheimer's, the new findings could help more women when they can still make plans for the future, experts said. "As your memory becomes more impaired, you are less and less aware you are having memory problems," said Sandra Weintraub, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the clinical board director of the Mesulam Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. "That is the worst time to plan.”
Northwestern Medicine scientists have pinpointed the location of dysfunctional brain networks that lead loss of language in primary progressive aphasia, a form of dementia.
Two Northwestern University scientists have received a $3.1 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to collaborate and investigate drug therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
- 08.13.2019The new report offers “good news and bad news,” said Sandra Weintraub, a professor and clinical core director at the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. The good news is that for most people the decline “wasn’t that great,” Weintraub said. “Having said that, it really puts patients between a rock and a hard place if they’re told they need surgery and worry about losing mental function,” Weintraub said.
- 08.07.2019The researchers don’t know exactly why there was a decline in cognition in the participants who had surgery. “It’s widely considered that anesthesia may affect long-term cognition, but this has not been strongly supported by the recent literature,” Sanders said in an email. The new report offers “good news and bad news,” said Sandra Weintraub, a professor and clinical core director at the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
- 07.24.2019Dr. Tamar Gefen, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, said the results of Mayeda’s study align with existing research on factors that lower the risk of late-life cognitive decline. “There is evidence in the literature suggesting a limited number of factors that can perhaps lower the risk of developing cognitive impairment in later life. This includes aerobic exercise, healthy nutrition, mental activity and engagement,” Gefen said in an email interview.
- 04.30.2019Still, the disease itself didn't come out of the blue. The evidence has been building for years, including reports of patients who didn't quite fit the mold for known types of dementia such as Alzheimer's. "There isn't going to be one single disease that is causing all forms of dementia," said Sandra Weintraub, a professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences and neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She was not involved in the new paper. Weintraub said researchers have been well aware of the "heterogeneity of dementia," but figuring out precisely why each type can look so different has been a challenge.