We all know that, as a population, we are getting older:

  • By 2016, 17% of Canadians will be at least 65 years old and, as the population ages, the number of Alzheimer’s cases will rise accordingly (Statistics Canada)
  • The risk of depression among caregivers of Alzheimer’s sufferers is twice as high as for informal caregivers of individuals with no dementia

The needs of our aging population will be a heavy load to bear if we do not find more effective means to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Identification and prevention

Douglas Institute researchers are particularly interested in the identification and prevention of dementia in the elderly. They are exploring the following topics:

  • The identification of new cognitive markers preceding Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly (Véronique Bohbot, PhD, Serge Gauthier MD, N.P. Vasavan Nair MD, Jens Pruessner, PhD)
  • Stress as a risk factor for dementia in older persons (Jens Pruessner, PhD)
  • The physical and mental health of informal caregivers (Rémi Quirion, PhD)
  • The link between Alzheimer’s disease and genotype (hereditary genetic constitution of an individual) (Judes Poirier, PhD)
  • The link between Alzheimer’s disease and phenotype (non-hereditary observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment) (Jens Pruessner, PhD)
  • The link between dementia and depression in older persons (Jens Pruessner, PhD)
  • Estrogens as a protective factor against cognitive impairment in older women (Véronique Bohbot, PhD, Vasavan Nair, MD, Jens Pruessner, PhD)

Research on aging: key findings

  • Regular consumption of black or green tea may reduce the risk of age-related degenerative brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease (Rémi Quirion, Ph.D). lien profil
  •  The team made up of Judes Poirier, PhD, Serge Gauthier, MD, and Rémi Quirion, PhD, found that patients affected by Alzheimer’s disease who do not carry the ApoE4 gene respond better to agents that improve memory function (cholinomimetics). This discovery has had a major influence on the development of effective drugs.
  • A molecule called beta-amyloid protein found in the brain of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease adjusts the release of acetylcholine, an important transmitter involved in memory processes (Rémi Quirion, Ph.D). lien profil
  • Somatomedin (IGF-1), a hormone secreted by the liver, blocks neuronal toxicity caused by the beta-amyloid protein present in the Alzheimer brain. IGF-1 is the only substance found to have such an impact. This discovery is important in the development of drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. (Rémi Quirion, Ph.D). lien profil
  • Some drugs that can decrease the levels of stress hormones in elderly individuals could potentially have beneficial effects on memory function (Michael Meaney, PhD)
  • Some drugs that are used to lower cholesterol levels in the elderly can be effective in preventing some of dementia’s harmful effects on the brain. (Judes Poirier, PhD)
  • Hormone replacement therapy may protect the hippocampus, an essential brain structure for the proper functioning of long-term memory. (Jens Pruessner, PhD)