Awards Recognize Work by Alzheimer’s Researchers 

3 From Center for Vital Longevity to Attend Conference Next Month in Canada

Postdoctoral fellows Dr. Kristen Kennedy and Dr. Karen Rodrigue and graduate student Gérard Nisal Bischof, all from UT Dallas’ Center for Vital Longevity, have been awarded fellowships to attend the upcoming Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada July 14-19.

They will join the world’s leading dementia scientists to share and discuss the latest research on the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

Kennedy has been named a Young Research Fellow by the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, one of only two young scientists to receive this year’s honor. The fellowship covers registration and travel expenses to attend the conference as well as a $1,500 honorarium. It is sponsored by the local Blondes vs. Brunettes (BVB) group, a volunteer-driven team that raises awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association through an annual powder-puff football game.

Kennedy’s research program focuses on how the brain and cognition change with age in normal, healthy adults. She believes that to advance the science and ultimate treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, it is imperative to understand what the normal aging brain undergoes and how it adapts to neural changes. As part of the fellowship, she will present insights gleaned from the conference to the BVB group in August, and update them on new developments in Alzheimer’s research and treatment during the year.

Dr. Karen Rodrigue received a travel fellowship from the 2012 AAIC committee that will cover her conference expenses. In addition, she was selected to give a talk about her current research on the risk factors for amyloid deposition in healthy adults. Amyloid is a protein whose toxic buildup in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Rodrigue is particularly interested in understanding how genetics and vascular risk factors like hypertension influence the accumulation of amyloid in the brain and how this in turn affects long-term cognitive health.

“I am looking forward to presenting my work to some of the world’s best dementia scientists,” said Rodrigue. “Their insights and feedback will be extremely helpful in shaping my ongoing research efforts.”

Finally, fourth-year graduate student Gérard Nisal Bischof received a student travel fellowship from ISTAART, the Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment, a professional society that includes scientists, physicians and other professionals interested in Alzheimer’s and dementia science. Bischof is using structural and functional brain-imaging techniques to examine how age-related changes in the brain affect cognition as we get older. After earning his doctorate, he hopes to expand his research program to understanding and ameliorating age-related neurological disease.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to interact with renowned scientist in the field of Alzheimer’s research and am excited to learn more about the biological markers of pathological brain aging,” said Bischof.          

“Three awards in one year is a wonderful accomplishment,” said Dr. Denise Park, co-director of the Center for Vital Longevity, Distinguished University Chair in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at UT Dallas, and mentor to Kennedy, Rodrigue, and Bischof. “My research team has made great strides in understanding not only how the brain ages, but what factors may hasten cognitive decline and may be suitable avenues for intervention. It is gratifying to know that our work is being recognized by such a well-respected organization as the Alzheimer’s Association.”

Alzheimer’s Association fellowship recipients Dr. Karen Rodrigue (left), Gérard Nisal Bischof and Dr. Kristen Kennedy

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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