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Understanding the role of research

Research is getting us closer every day to finding the cause and the cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, as well as new and effective approaches to improving care and quality of life for those living with dementia.

Finding a treatment will benefit all Canadians by improving the lives of all who are touched by dementia, reducing the growing burden on our health care system, and helping to create a better future for the next generation.

We’re proud to support some of Canada’s brightest minds in this vital work.

The Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP)

Celebrating 30 years, our flagship national peer-reviewed program awarded $3.4 million to 24 researchers working on a range of biomedical and quality-of-life research projects. We are grateful to Alzheimer Societies and donors across the country for funding the ASRP.

Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA)

The largest effort to understand dementia in Canada is the Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA). More than 350 clinicians and researchers throughout Canada have come together to form the CCNA and are accelerating progress in the research of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including Vascular dementia, Frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia.

As a founding CCNA partner, the Alzheimer Society of Canada has committed $4.05 million over five years (2014-2019) to these efforts and is proud to have supported many of the researchers leading key projects within the CCNA through the Alzheimer Society Research Program. Achievements to date include:

  • Establishment of 20 teams across Canada doing cutting-edge research in the areas of prevention, treatment and quality of life
  • Publication of research findings in more than 100 scientific journals
  • Creation of a national patient cohort of more than 2,000 Canadians for research purposes
  • Ongoing knowledge transfer to public and policy makers through a dedicated program
  • Collaboration with other federal initiatives, including the Centre for Aging & Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), and AGE-WELL

How drugs are approved in Canada for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

On average it takes 12 years and $359 million to bring a drug from the research lab to a person with dementia.

Research highlights

Dr. Anne Almey
Dr. Gillian Einstein

Investigating the connection between estrogen and dementia

As women tend to live longer than men, they also have a higher risk of developing dementia. However, age may not tell the whole story behind women’s higher susceptibility to the disease.

Supervised by Dr. Gillian Einstein (a distant cousin of famed scientist Albert Einstein), Wilfred and Joyce Posluns Chair in Women’s Brain Health and Aging at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Natasha Rajah, Director of The Brain Imaging Centre at the Douglas Institute, and Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, post-doctoral fellow Dr. Anne Almey is using her ASRP funding to study the role that estrogens play in both cognitive and brain health in women. She will compare a specific population of women with low levels of circulating estrogen with a control group of women with normal levels of circulating estrogens.

Dr. Almey hopes to clarify the role that estrogens play in cognitive and neurobiological functioning in women, and perhaps contribute to treatments to slow the progression or prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease in women.

Dr. Simon Duchesne

Detecting dementia years before symptoms begin

There is growing evidence to suggest that certain changes can be detected in the brain years—even decades—before symptoms of dementia begin to appear. Supported by an ASRP biomedical grant, Dr. Simon Duchesne, Associate Professor in the Radiology Department at Université Laval, and who is also the Chair of the ASRP Biomedical Panel, is using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of individuals with dementia and those without the disease.

Dr. Duchesne’s goal is to identify the disease early, thereby maximizing the treatment window—and therefore the effectiveness—of both lifestyle and drug approaches to combat Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Read more about Dr. Duchesne and his research on the Alzheimer Society Blog.

Dr. Debra Sheets

Understanding the power of music to improve quality of life

One of the frequent side effects of Alzheimer’s, for those with the disease and for their caregivers, is social isolation. The benefits of music and the arts for people living with dementia are well-known, and anecdotal evidence has shown choirs to be particularly promising. Choirs provide their members with a sense of connection, improved mood and self-esteem, reduced stress, and an opportunity to express their voices and learn more about each other.

Using a quality of life grant from the ASRP, Dr. Debra Sheets, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Victoria, is studying the benefits of an intergenerational choir for people with dementia. Voices in Motion is an intergenerational choir that brings together people with Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers and high school students from the community in Victoria, B.C. The goal is to use the study’s findings to create a toolkit of best practices that can be used by other organizations who are interested in starting a community choir for people with dementia.

Read more about Dr. Sheets and her research on the Alzheimer Society Blog.