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Grant bolsters research on subjective cognitive decline

Feb. 27, 2020, 9:33 AM


by Paul Govern

Katherine Gifford, PsyD, MS, assistant professor of Neurology, has been awarded a five-year, $4.3 million research grant from the National Institute on Aging to study what subjective cognitive decline (SCD) can reveal about underlying pathology.

Katherine Gifford, PsyD, MS

SCD refers to self-reported confusion or memory problems that have been happening more often or getting worse in the past 12 months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of SCD among U.S. adults is one in nine. As the population ages, SCD will become more common.

While SCD doesn’t imply a diagnosis of cognitive decline, such self-reported cognitive changes may be a precursor of Alzheimer’s disease, various other neurodegenerative diseases, cerebral small vessel disease or one of the other distinct pathologies that lead eventually to dementia.

“Current SCD assessment methods in the clinic lack the specificity to tease apart the underlying etiology. We’re out to test whether SCD evaluations can tell us more than they currently do about what’s going on with the patient,” Gifford said.

In addition to leveraging data gathered through Vanderbilt’s Memory & Aging Project, Gifford’s team will assemble a larger prospective cohort of cognitively unimpaired older adults with a range of SCD.

To capture clinical and pathological markers of brain health, participants will undergo neuroimaging, lumbar puncture and detailed assessments of cognition. With this information in hand, the team will seek to refine how SCD is measured, developing a patient questionnaire that gives clinical teams more specific diagnostic information.

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