This is an application for a K23 award for Dr. Brianne Bettcher, a neuropsychology fellow at the University of California, San Francisco Memory and Aging Center (MAC). Dr. Bettcher is establishing herself as a young investigator who conducts patient-oriented clinical research on the role of inflammation in cognitive aging. This K23 award will provide Dr. Bettcher with the support necessary to accomplish the following goals: (1) to garner expertise in the cognitive neuroscience of aging;2) to advance her knowledge of the immunological contributions to healthy and pathological aging by translating innovative findings from basic science;(3) to acquire proficiency in structural and diffusion neuroimaging;(4) to develop proficiency in advanced statistical methods;and (5) to develop an independent research career. To achieve these goals, Dr. Bettcher has assembled a mentoring team that includes one primary mentor: Dr. Kramer (a clinical neuropsychologist and international leader in the cognitive neuroscience of aging);three co-mentors: Drs. Kristine Yaffe (a neurologist with expertise in immunological biomarkers and biostatistics), Maria Luisa Gorno-Tempini (a neurologist with expertise in structural MRI, specifically diffusion tensor imaging analyses), and Bruce Miller (a neurologist with expertise in behavioral neurology and clinical research);and one consultant: Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray (an immunologist with basic science expertise in inflammation). The proposed research study focuses on the cognitive and neural correlates of inflammation in healthy older adults. Dr. Bettcher will use laboratory indices of inflammation to assess the association between inflammation and cognitive functions, specifically memory consolidation, executive functions, and processing speed (Aim 1). Dr. Bettcher will employ structural and diffusion neuroimaging data to explicate the neural correlates of inflammation, and further identify whether these neural systems mediate the relation between inflammation and cognition (Aim 2). In order to isolate a novel mechanism of immune dysfunction, Dr. Bettcher will also examine the role of an upstream regulator of inflammation (i.e. progranulin) in cognitive functions and its association with brain structure (Aim 3). The proposed research will utilize the existing infrastructure of the MAC to investigate this new program of study.

Public Health Relevance

The results from this study will provide integral information regarding the relationship between inflammation, cognition and brain structure in healthy older adults, and inform the cognitive neuroscience of healthy versus pathological aging. Dr. Bettcher's K23 training will prepare her to conduct multimodal studies of cognitive aging and implement future longitudinal studies that investigate modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline. Recent evidence indicates that inflammation may confer risk for accelerated aging and may precede early stages of neurodegenerative disease;yet, strikingly little is known about the relationship between inflammation, cognition, and brain structure in healthy older adults. Results gleaned from this project will inform the cognitive neuroscience of healthy versus pathological aging, identify potential mechanisms of inflammation- associated alterations in brain structure and cognition, and provide a platform for identification of individuals at risk for cognitive decline. This work will also translate basic science studies of inflammation and aging to humans and will utilize a cutting edge marker of inflammation to pinpoint a potential mechanism of immune dysfunction.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAG1-ZIJ-7 (M1))
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Wagster, Molly V
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University of California San Francisco
Schools of Medicine
San Francisco
United States
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Bettcher, B M; Kramer, J H (2014) Longitudinal inflammation, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer's disease: a mini-review. Clin Pharmacol Ther 96:464-9
Bettcher, B M; Gelfand, J M; Irani, S R et al. (2014) More than memory impairment in voltage-gated potassium channel complex encephalopathy. Eur J Neurol 21:1301-10
Walsh, Christine M; Wilkins, Sarah; Bettcher, Brianne Magouirk et al. (2014) Memory consolidation in aging and MCI after 1 week. Neuropsychology 28:273-80
Bettcher, Brianne M; Watson, Christa L; Walsh, Christine M et al. (2014) Interleukin-6, age, and corpus callosum integrity. PLoS One 9:e106521
Bettcher, Brianne Magouirk; Walsh, Christine M; Watson, Christa et al. (2013) Body mass and white matter integrity: the influence of vascular and inflammatory markers. PLoS One 8:e77741