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Researching Modifiable and Non-Modifiable Risk Factors Linked to Cognitive Resilience in Alzheimer’s Disease

What do we do?

Our lab focuses on clarifying how alterations in the brain and other biomolecules (such as cerebrospinal fluid β-amyloid) place some cognitively-normal individuals on a pernicious trajectory that culminates in Alzheimer’s dementia. In this context, we are also interested in discovering new knowledge concerning the modulation of the link between brain changes and cognitive decline by both modifiable (e.g., cognitively-stimulating activities, physical exercise) and non-modifiable (e.g., genetic vulnerability) factors.

We use many techniques in our research, including but not limited to:

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MRI and PET Imaging

Select DTI regions of interest known to be involved with AD pathology.
Axial view from a 2D PC scan depicting the velocity of blood flow through the aortic arch during a full cardiac cycle.
Representative brain FDG PET scan from two individuals at high (left) vs low (right) risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Red indicates a greater degree of brain glucose metabolism.

Cerebrospinal Fluid Collection

A lumbar puncture procedure to collect cerebrospinal fluid.

Maximal Exercise Testing

Maximal exercise testing measures VO2, heart rate, respiratory exchange ratio, ventilation, and other variables needed to determine one’s cardiorespiratory fitness.
Variables of interest during a maximal exercise test.

Blood-based Protein Analysis (eg klotho, BDNF, etc.)

Lab where we store and analyze samples.

Physical Activity Monitoring

A visual representation of an individual’s physical activity levels over 10 days, captured with an Actigraph accelerometer worn around the waist.

Cognitive Testing

Administering one of many cognitive tests that comprise our neuropsychological testing battery.

We are a part of the larger Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program, which includes both the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute.

Our offices are located on UW Madison’s campus within the UW Hospital. The majority of our research is conducted within the UW Hospital, the Waisman Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Medical Research, and the YMCA.

News Highlights

  • Committee Appointments for Ozioma Okonkwo

    Ozioma Okonkwo has been appointed to serve on several committees over the last few months: The NIH-NINDS Multiple Etiology Dementias (MED) committee for the 2022 NIH Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias (ADRD) Summit. When approved by the …

  • Neuroscience Next Presentations

    Four members of the Okonkwo Lab had their abstracts accepted for oral or poster presentation at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) Neuroscience Next 2021! Max Gaitán: Circulating klotho is elevated in cerebrospinal fluid, but …

  • Manuscripts Accepted for Publication

    Two manuscripts were accepted for publication this summer: Max Gaitán’s manuscript was published in Frontiers in Endocrinology: Effects of Aerobic Exercise Training on Systematic biomarkers and Cognition in Late Middle-Aged Adults at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease …

  • Welcome Natascha Merten, PhD

    Natascha Merten, PhD joined the Okonkwo Lab on September 1st as an Assistant Scientist. We are thrilled to have her join us!

  • More News