The number of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia continues to rise as the baby boom generation ages. Researchers at the University of West Florida are actively involved in not only battling the devastating effects of those conditions, but also finding new methods of early detection and helping those who must care for those affected.

“This research is contributing important knowledge toward controlling and mitigating the effects of the extensive and debilitating diseases related to cognitive decline,” said Dr. Matthew Schwartz, assistant vice president of research administration at UWF. “University research and development are a vital part of developing better treatments and even cures for these diseases. UWF researchers are a part of that.”

Behind the scenes

Dr. Rodney Guttmann
Dr. James Arruda
Dr. Crystal Bennett

Early detection

UWF researchers are actively engaged in discovering new methods to detect the Alzheimer’s disease years – even decades – before symptoms begin to show. Dr. James Arruda is a neuropsychologist whose research has identified a biological response marker – the flash visual evoked potential P2 – that is selectively displayed in Alzheimer’s patients when they are exposed to a strobe effect.

Looking for biomarkers

Dr. Rodney Gutmann, a biology professor, is working on research that could identify biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid – fluid found in the brain and spinal cord. Specifically, Guttmann is looking at changes to the tau protein. Such changes are one of the two major neuropathologies associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and research has shown that changes to tau may occur many years before memory decline.

Mitigating Alzheimer's effects

Others are looking at ways to mitigate the disease and its effects on those tasked with being caregivers. Dr. Crystal Bennett, lecturer of nursing at UWF, has received a $94,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health for her research project looking at using dance as a way to mitigate agitation in dementia patients and to reduce reliance on medication to treat this symptom.

Dr. Carla Thompson, professor and director of the UWF Community Outreach, Research and Learning Center, led a team of researchers studying the psychological and physical stressors suffered by the more than 16 million Americans who serve as unpaid caregivers to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

“Alzheimer's research is one of the most consequential of the manifold ways that UWF researchers engage UWF students in meaningful applied research, thus helping to create the next generation of scientific researchers, caregivers and informed citizenry,” Schwartz said.

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