Neighborhood Greenness and Alzheimer’s Disease in 249,405 U.S. Medicare Beneficiaries

Neighborhood greenness, or vegetative presence, has been associated with various indicators of health and wellbeing, but its relationship to Alzheimer’s disease has been less studied. Understanding the role of environmental factors in Alzheimer’s disease in older adults may inform and complement traditional interventions for Alzheimer’s disease and/or related dementias, including prevention and treatment. This study examines the relationship between neighborhood greenness and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease among older adults in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States.

Dr. Susan Pekarske is Elected Trustee of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation

Dr. Susan Pekarske is Elected Trustee of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation

Dr. Susan Pekarske is Elected Trustee of the McKnight Brain Research FoundationDr. Susan L. Pekarske, a distinguished clinical pathologist and hematopathologist was elected trustee of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation (MBRF) at its board meeting on February 21, 2018.  Her three-year term of service is effective July 1, 2018.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. degree in Biology, Dr. Pekarske attended the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison, Wisconsin, where she was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and awarded her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1990.  During medical school, Dr. Pekarske was the recipient of many honors for outstanding scholarship and achievement.  Following completion of medical school, Dr. Pekarske completed her Internship in Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California at San Diego in San Diego, California and a four-year residency training program in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, Department of Pathology, also at the University of California at San Diego.  Dr. Pekarske has also enhanced her interest and knowledge in the field of pathology by completing an additional Fellowship in Hematopathology in the Department of Pathology, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, California in 1996.

Dr. Pekarske is a Diplomate of The American Board of Pathology in combined Anatomic and Clinical Pathology and a Diplomate of The American Board of Hematology.

After the completion of her training in 1996, Dr. Pekarske served on the faculty and as an attending physician in the Department of Pathology at the University of California at San Diego, in San Diego, California. In 1998, she was recruited to the position of Staff Pathologist at the Northwest Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.  Dr. Pekarske and her husband, who is a practicing anesthesiologist, still reside in Tucson.

The purpose of the MBRF is to promote research and investigation of the brain in the fundamental mechanisms that underlie the neurobiology of memory with clinical relevance to the problems of cognitive decline and memory loss associated with the aging process. Dr. Pekarske’s background and experience as an expert clinical pathologist, and knowledge of diseases of the brain contributing to cognitive decline and memory loss make her uniquely qualified to serve as trustee of the MBRF.

Dr. Pekarske will serve with the current trustees, Dr. J. Lee Dockery, Gainesville, FL; Dr. Michael L. Dockery, Charlotte, NC; Dr. Richard S. Isaacson, New York, New York; Dr. Nina Ellenbogen Raim, Miami Beach, FL;, Dr. Gene Ryerson, Gainesville, FL; Dr. Madhav Thambisetty, Silver Spring, MD; Dr. Robert Wah, McLean, VA; and Melanie Cianciotto Corporate Trustee, Orlando, FL. in their role in promoting research of  the brain leading to the understanding and alleviation of cognitive decline and memory loss associated with the aging process.

Dr. Joyce Gomes-Osman

Non-invasive Brain Stimulation: Probing Intracortical Circuits and Improving Cognition in the Aging Brain

Dr. Joyce Gomes-OsmanCheck out the exciting new publication led by Dr. Joyce Gomes-Osman here at the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and in collaboration with Dr. Adam Woods at the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida. This article highlights the opportunities created by applying innovative methods of non-invasive brain stimulation to further elucidate mechanisms and create therapeutic opportunities in cognitive aging and cognitive impairment. Enjoy!

Read full article: Non-invasive Brain Stimulation: Probing Intracortical Circuits and Improving Cognition in the Aging Brain…

Here’s How Much Exercise You Need to Keep Your Brain Healthy

We are excited that the latest article by Dr. Joyce Gomes-Osman, winner of our first Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute Pilot Award at University of Miami, was published at Neurology: Clinical Practice, and disseminated through various news outlets. Check out the article in TIME Magazine below:

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We know that exercise may help improve thinking skills. But how much exercise? And for how long?

Seniors who exercised regularly performed better on thinking skills tests than those who did not.

To find the answers, researchers led by Joyce Gomes-Osman, Ph.D., PT, assistant professor of clinical physical therapy and neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, reviewed all of the studies in which older adults were asked to exercise for at least four weeks and then take tests of thinking and memory skills. Their results were compared to those of people who did not start a new exercise routine. The review was published in the May 30 online issue of Neurology Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The researchers found that people who exercised an average of at least 52 hours over about six months for about an hour each session may improve their thinking skills. In contrast, people who exercised for an average of 34 hours over the same time period did not show any improvement in their thinking skills.

The review did not find a relationship between a weekly amount of exercise and improved thinking skills.

Joyce Gomes-Osman, Ph.D., PT.

“These results suggest that a longer-term exercise program may be necessary to gain the benefits in thinking skills,” said Gomes-Osman, the study’s author and director of the Neuromotor Plasticity Laboratory. “We were excited to see that even people who participated in lower-intensity exercise programs showed a benefit to their thinking skills. Not everyone has the endurance or motivation to start a moderately intense exercise program, but everyone can benefit even from a less-intense plan.”

The review included 98 randomized, controlled trials with a total of 11,061 participants, whose average age was 73. Of the total participants, 59 percent were categorized as healthy adults, 26 percent had mild cognitive impairment and 15 percent had dementia. A total of 58 percent did not regularly exercise before being enrolled in a study.

The researchers collected data on exercise session length, intensity, weekly frequency and amount of exercise over time. Aerobic exercise was the most common type of exercise, with walking the most common aerobic exercise; others including biking and dancing. Some studies used a combination of aerobic exercise along with strength, or resistance training and some used strength training alone. A small number of studies used mind-body exercises such as yoga or Tai chi.

After evaluating all of the data, the researchers found that in both healthy people and people with cognitive impairment, longer term exposure to exercise — at least 52 hours of exercise conducted over an average of about six months — improved the brain’s processing speed, the amount of time it takes to complete a mental task. In healthy people, that same amount of exercise also improved executive function, a person’s ability to manage time, pay attention and achieve goals. However, researchers found no link between the amount of exercise and improved memory skills. Aerobic exercise, strength training, mind-body exercise, and combinations of these were all found to be beneficial to thinking skills.

“Only the total length of time exercising could be linked to improved thinking skills,” said Gomes-Osman “but our results may also provide further insight. With a majority of participants being sedentary when they first enrolled in a study, our research suggests that using exercise to combat sedentary behavior may be a reason why thinking skills improved.”

Future studies could further investigate which thinking abilities experience the greatest improvement with exercise. They could also look at the short-term and long-term effects of exercise in both sedentary and physically fit individuals.

Amy Porter

The McKnight Brain Research Foundation appoints Amy Porter to Executive Director Position

Amy PorterThe McKnight Brain Research Foundation (MBRF) is pleased to announce the appointment of Amy McGuire Porter as its Executive Director (ED) effective, April 1, 2018. The ED is the chief management officer of the MBRF and reports directly to the Board of Trustees (Board) through the Chair of the Board. The ED serves as the lead representative of the organization, along with the chair and as its primary spokesperson to all stakeholder groups.

Amy has served as a non-profit professional for over 30 years with 16 years’ experience serving as executive director and CEO of two national, health-related organizations – the Foundation for National Institutes of Health (FNIH) from 2001-2010 and the National Osteoporosis Foundation from 2010 through 2017.

During Amy’s nine years as Acting and then Executive Director of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), nearly $500 million in contributed revenue was received and for four consecutive years the FNIH received Charity Navigator’s highest 4 Star Ratings. The development of a pioneering form of public-private partnership that produced the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and the Biomarkers Consortium, are major achievements under Amy’s leadership.

Under Amy’s tenure at FNIH, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided $200 million to design, launch and manage Grand Challenges in Global Health, a five-year grant program to foster innovation in solving key global health and development problems. In addition, FNIH managed the Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium, issuing $24 million in grants to three academic centers, speeding up the determination of the DNA sequence of the mouse genome. Other major programs developed during her tenure include the Genetic Association Information Network, a program to genotype existing research studies combining the results with clinical data to create a new resource for genetic researchers and secured the funding for the design and constructions of the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge and Garden on the NIH campus. The Research Partnership in Cognitive Aging, a public- private partnership with the National Institute on Aging and the McKnight Brain Research Foundation to support research on age-related changes in the brain influencing cognition and memory loss associated with normal aging, was formed during Amy’s time as ED of the FNIH.

In 2010, Amy became the CEO and Executive Director of the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). In her role, she was the primary spokesperson to all stakeholder groups. She was responsible for overseeing strategic planning, operations, and administration of the organization. Additional duties included identifying and developing educational and research priorities, enhancing the NOF image and enriching all levels of engagement with patients, caregivers, physicians and the public.

In Amy’s first year at NOF, she established the National Bone Health Alliance (NBHA) based on the Biomarkers Consortium model developed at FNIH. Under NOF’s management, the NBHA has become a successful consortium of over fifty-member organizations joining together to advance research, advocacy and education in osteoporosis and rare bone diseases, and to promote bone health. NBHA members include other nonprofit organizations, medical societies, pharmaceutical and diagnostic industry partners, and nutrition and exercise companies. The NIH, FDA, NASA and CDC participate as advisors to the NBHA.

Amy has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kent State University and attended the Master’s in Arts program for non-profit management at the University of Akron. In 2005, Amy was the recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center Director’s Award for her work in support of NIH patients and their families. In 2009, Amy received the Honorary Alumna Award from The University of Akron for her work in support of health and biomedical research. In 2017, Amy received the New Jersey Interagency Council Professional Award and was appointed as a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee to the CEO of Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America ((PhRMA).

The purpose of the MBRF is to promote research and investigation of the brain that underlie the neurobiology of memory with clinical relevance to the problems of cognitive decline and age-related memory loss. Amy’s background and experience make her uniquely qualified to serve as the Executive Director of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.

Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., FAAN

Dr. Tatjana Rundek Named Scientific Director of Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute

Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., FAANTatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., FAAN, professor of neurology and public health sciences and executive vice chair for research and faculty affairs in the Department of Neurology, has been named scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute and Evelyn F. McKnight Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She has served as the interim scientific director since October 2016.

The Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami was established in 2007 with a donation from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation and a match from the Schoninger Foundation and other UM donors. Its mission is to discover and explore normal memory changes that happen with age, investigate the causes of age-related disorders of brain function and memory, and develop ways to prevent them.

“I am dedicated to our McKnight Brain Institute’s mission to accelerate discovery of the causes, treatment, and prevention of age-related memory loss and cognitive decline, and to enhance brain health through translational and patient-oriented research,” said Rundek, who also serves as director of the Clinical Translational Research Division in Neurology, and director of the Master of Science Degree in Clinical Translational Investigations.

Born and raised in Zagreb, Croatia, Rundek received her medical degree and neurology training at the University of Zagreb, a Ph.D. in neuroscience in Germany, and completed a research fellowship at Columbia University.

Rundek is a neurologist, clinical researcher, epidemiologist and principal investigator of several R01 grants and foundation awards funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH/NINDS). She received a NINDS K24 training grant and research awards from the Hazel K. Goddess Fund for Stroke Research in Women and the Dr. Gilbert Baum Fund in Clinical Ultrasound for best clinical application of ultrasound in investigations of brain hemodynamics.

Rundek was the first Fulbright Scholar at the Neurological Institute at Columbia University. As the International Fulbright Scholar Leader in 1996-97, Rundek gave a presentation on the importance of the international research exchange program at the 1997 Annual UN Assembly in New York. Rundek is a dedicated scientist with a strong commitment to service to the scientific community. She serves on review study sections at the NIH, the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Neurology and on the editorial boards of many scientific journals. She has published more than 400 scientific publications, editorials, reviews and book chapters. Rundek’s professional and scientific interests include genetic, epigenetic and environmental contributions to cerebral small vessel disease, stroke and cognitive decline with a specific focus on health disparities in women and minority populations. Her current investigations involve the vascular mechanisms of successful aging, mild cognitive impairment and dementia, using magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial Doppler challenge testing in collaborations with the Einstein Aging Study in the Bronx, the Northern Manhattan Study, and with other McKnight Brain Institutes at the University of Florida, University of Arizona and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Rundek is dedicated to brain health education to communities, and to training and mentoring new generations of cognitive neurologists and other professionals needed to overcome challenges of preserving and restoring brain health of the rapidly growing population of older adults in the U.S.

“Dr. Rundek is a wonderful choice as scientific director,” said Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., executive director of the McKnight Brain Institute, professor and chair of neurology, Olemberg Chair in Neurological Disorders, senior associate dean for clinical and translational science and director of UM’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “Her passion for team science and developing new ideas in a truly collaborative manner is very special. I am looking forward to great things under Dr. Rundek’s leadership.”

As interim director Rundek created the Miami McKnight Brain Institute Small Pilot Collaborative Award. The program gave small grants to junior faculty or post-doctoral trainees with promising potential to become successful investigators in age-related memory loss and cognitive decline, supporting research and advancing the McKnight Brain Institute collaborative research project pipeline.

“Dr. Rundek’s background and training, both as a clinician and a research scientist, make her uniquely qualified to advance the research initiatives in cognitive aging leading to the understanding of and alleviation of age-related memory loss, not only at the University of Miami, but throughout the universal scientific community,” said J. Lee Dockery, M.D., chair of the Board of Trustees for the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.

Joyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PT

Small Pilot Grant Awarded to Joyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PT

Joyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PTJoyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PT is the first recipient of the Evelyn F. McKnight Small Pilot Collaborative Research Award Program (funding period: July 2017- June 2018). She is a rehabilitation scientist with expertise in clinical research that aims to harness plasticity through interventions such as noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) and exercise, and assesses their effects on the human nervous system during aging. She did her postdoctoral Fellowship at the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation of Harvard Medical School. Her overall research aims to better understand the influence of exercise and its potential to improve function and promote neuroplasticity throughout the lifespan.

Dr. Gomes-Osman’s small pilot research project is entitled Aerobic exercise to influence mechanisms of brain plasticity and cognition in healthy aging. The goal of this study is to compare the effects of a moderate intensity aerobic exercise intervention (delivered at 55-64% age-predicted maximal heart rate) and high intensity aerobic exercise intervention (delivered at 65%-90% age-predicted maximal heart rate) on measures that probe cortical synaptic plasticity using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and neuropsychological tests of cognitive performance in older healthy adults at risk for developing cognitive impairments. Her primary hypothesis is that high-intensity aerobic exercise intervention is associated with a greater increase in measures that probe cortical synaptic plasticity on TMS and with greater increases in processing speed, executive function and attention. She proposed to enroll thirty participants aged 65 years or older with no cognitive impairment (Mini Mental State Exam >24), but with a family history of Alzheimer’s Disease and/or ɛ4 allele carriers from the Evelyn F. McKnight Research Registry and the University of Miami Memory Clinic. The recruitment is currently ongoing