Markesbery Symposium Focuses on Healthy Brain Aging, Care for Caregivers

University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA) hosted its sixth annual Markesbery Symposium on Aging and Dementia last week with speakers focused on brain health and self-care for caregivers.

The two-day program offered sessions for both scientific and community audiences.

On Friday, Nov. 4, the scientific session in the UK Chandler Hospital Pavilion A auditorium featured speakers Dr. Gary Small of UCLA and Dr. Julie Schneider of Rush University, who presented their latest findings and answered questions from the audience.

Schneider provided an overview of her observations that, there are brain changes in addition to the well-characterized plaques and tangles that may also cause cognitive dysfunction and dementia.

Small gave the audience an overview of the scientific underpinnings for the hypothesis that lifestyle changes – including diet and exercise — can be protective against Alzheimer's disease, particularly when combined with pharmacological therapies.

Afterward, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging faculty members Joe Abisambra, PhD; Harry LeVine, PhD; Peter Nelson, MD, PhD; and Linda Van Eldik, PhD, presented findings from their latest research.

A poster session highlighted work from younger scientists researching a wide range of topics related to aging and dementia. One postdoc, Ishta Parikh, looked at the gut biome in animals carrying either the ApoE3 or the ApoE4 gene (which is associated with increased incidence of Alzheimer's disease). She found an interesting correlation in which animals carrying the ApoE3 gene had greater diversity in the gut biome.

"My work suggests that bacterial genetics can influence human genes, opening up the possibility that what you eat really does affect how well you think," Parikh said.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the Bluegrass Ballroom at the Lexington Convention Center was filled with close to 300 members of the community who came to hear Dr. Small and Mary Austrom, PhD, of Indiana University.

Small has authored or co-authored several books on memory and memory loss, including "The Alzheimer's Prevention Program," "2 Weeks to a Younger Brain," and the international best-seller "The Memory Bible." Dr. Small shared with the audience his recommended techniques for healthy brain aging.

Austrom is an expert on late life transitions and adjustment to retirement. She is also interested in non-pharmacological interventions for dementia patients and their caregivers, and the stress and grief associated with caring for someone with dementia.

Austrom spoke on the burden of caregiving and the importance of ensuring adequate respite for caregivers.

Following the formal presentations Austrom, along with Sanders-Brown’s own Dr. Gregory Jicha and Marie Smart, answered questions from the audience ranging from the challenges of caring for someone with dementia to end-of-life decision making to the need for early and accurate diagnosis, and what is on the horizon with respect to research and clinical trials.

"It's always invigorating to have clinicians and researchers from UK and other institutions come together to share current findings and trends on dementia and aging," said Van Eldik, director of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. "We consider it part of our responsibility as a world leader in Alzheimer's research to foster collaboration among institutions and share our insights with members of our community."

The Markesbery Symposium is named in honor of the late Dr. William R. Markesbery, the founder and long-time director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and an internationally renowned expert on aging and dementia.

Media contact: Laura Dawahare, Laura.Dawahare@uky.edu, (859) 257-5307

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