Researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute can discuss the progress on improved solutions to better diagnose, treat, and help family members cope with this heartbreaking disease. Listed below is a description of their significant work.

The Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease

Judes Poirier, PhD, C.Q., Director of the McGill University Centre for Studies in Aging at the Douglas. Interviews in French and English.

Individualized medicine may be one of the best treatments for Alzheimer’s disease according to Judes Poirier. His research team has demonstrated that apolipoprotein E (apoE), the molecule, which transports cholesterol in the brain, does not function properly in some Alzheimer’s disease patients. They have taken this discovery one step further, and developed a genetic test to identify which individuals carry the non-functional apoE molecule. Although this finding cannot be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, it can be used to determine which treatments will be most successful. This individualized medicine strategy is becoming more commonplace with many other diseases and helps patients get the best treatment for their diagnosis.

Early diagnosis of AD and clinical practices guidelines

Serge Gauthier, MD, FRCPC, director of the Alzheimer Disease Research Unit, at the McGill Centre for Studies in Aging.
Interviews in French and English.

Serge Gauthier has been conducting research on dementing disorders at the Douglas for over 20 years and is credited with setting up the first multicentre Canadian study on the treatment of Alzheimer Disease, using tacrine. In addition he has developed clinical practice guidelines for primary care physicians toward the recognition, assessment, and management of dementing disorders. He is also currently working on early diagnosis of AD.

Clinical Trials – looking at a new generation of drugs

N.P. Vasavan Nair, MD, FRCPC, Medical Chief, Program for Dementia with Psychiatric Comorbidity. Interviews in English only.

Improved treatments may be on the way for some 280,000 Canadians with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the Douglas Hospital are evaluating the efficacy of a new generation of medications that may, not only halt Azheimer’s Disease progression, but also, reverse some of the symptoms.
“Our current clinical trials are looking at a new second generation of drugs, “ says Douglas Medical Chief for the Program for Dementia with Psychiatric Co-morbidity and McGill Psychiatry Professor, N.P. Vasavan Nair MD, FRCPC. “We are hopeful that these medications will be disease-modifying and that we may see significant improvement in our patients.”

Brain chemicals, memory and learning

Rémi Quirion, O.C., PhD, FRSC, CQ, scientific director of the Douglas’ Institute. Interviews in French and English.

Rémi Quirion is exploring how brain neurochemistry relates to deficiencies in reasoning (such as dementia related to Alzheimer's disease), and is investigating how brain chemicals such as acetylcholine, and neural peptides, facilitate learning and memory in animal models.

Brain volume and aging

Jens Pruessner, PhD, director of the Douglas’ Aging and Alzheimer Disease Research Theme. Interviews in English only.

Size may be everything according to Jens Pruessner. His research involves mapping the changes in brain size and volume, which occur as a function of age. He is then relating these findings to changes in function observed in normal and abnormal aging. For example, previous studies have shown that some individuals with Alzheimer-related dementia have smaller brain structures than those without this disorder. However, Pruessner suggests that aging is not a uniform process, but shows variation. He is investigating how factors, such as hormones and stress, may contribute to these differences. His research supports the emerging concept that size and form of different brain structures can have behavioural and functional consequences.

Red wine, tea and chocolate: their effect on neurogical disorders

Stéphane Bastianetto, PhD, Jonathan Brouillette and Rémi Quirion, PhD, scientific director of the Douglas. Interviews in French and English.

Researchers Stéphane Bastianetto, Jonathan Brouillette and Rémi Quirion are studying how various chemicals in beverages such as red wine, tea and in chocolate may reduce the risk of neurological disorders such as, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Their findings have demonstrated that specific compounds such as resveratrol present in red wine, polyphenols in chocolate and gallate esters in tea have defined neuroprotective effects. Not only do these compounds demonstrate anti-oxidant effects, but they also interact with other cellular molecules. The investigators are currently further characterizing understand how this occurs at the cellular level and how to maximize this protective effect.

Memory Retrieval and aging

Maria Natasha Rajah, PhD. Interviews in English only.

Maria Natasha Rajah is conducting research to investigate how memory retrieval works in healthy young adults, and how it is affected by aging. Her current research makes use of a brain imaging technique called event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to find out what brain regions are important for retrieving memories in young adults, and how healthy aging impacts the structure and function of these various regions.