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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

GE MR750 3T scanner for structural and functional brain imaging.
Siemens ECAT EXACT HR+ PET scanner, with the operational model pictured in the forefront and a second HR+ gantry used for educational purposes pictured in the background.

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 Biomarkers

Roche cobas 6000 for analysis of biospecimens.

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

  • Ryan Dougherty Receives Favorable Score on K01

    Former lab member, Ryan Dougherty, received a favorable score on his recently-submitted K01 grant titled, “Energy expenditure, cognitive function, and biomarker features of Alzheimer’s disease.” Official funding is likely on the horizon. This is an …

  • Ben Accepted into Medical School

    Congratulations to Ben Rackovan for getting accepted into Medical School at the Medical College of Wisconsin. This is a phenomenal achievement; we are all very proud!

  • Natascha Earns Professional Development Grant

    Natascha Merten has been awarded an Academic Staff Professional Development Grant to continue her streak of outstanding accomplishments. Way to go, Natascha!

  • Clayton Vesperman’s Manuscript to be Published

    Clayton Vesperman’s manuscript titled Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognition in persons at risk for Alzheimer’s disease has been accepted for publication in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring. Congratulations on this accomplishment, Clayton!

  • More News