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  • September 2013: A basic science functional neuroanatomy study of the large-scale network-level organization of the human temporal pole was published in Cerebral Cortex.
  • May 2013: The reliability of the new diagnostic criteria for bvFTD were demonstrated by our multi-center collaborative group, as reported in Neurology.
  • April 2013: My collaborator Dr. Feldman Barrett and I reported with our team that affective experience during the viewing of emotional pictures was associated with different patterns of activation within the brain (measured with fMRI) between men and women. See the study in SCAN for details.
  • March 2013: Our new findings were published in Neuroimage on the cortical signature of normal aging, which is very distsinct from that of AD and clearly demonstrates that AD is different than aging, although there is at least some spatial overlap in these processes.
  • March 2013: "I'm beginning to be a believer in familiarity-based memory measures as a dissociable indicator of early AD." I said this to my close collaborator Dr. Wolk when we found the relationship between this behavioral measure and my cortical thickness measure of AD pathology, the AD signature. Our paper in Neuropsychologia provides the details of this study.
  • Jan 2013: Our case report with Drs. Daffner and Perez and colleagues highlight a variant of Primary Progressive Aphasia not described in the new diagnostic criteria.
  • December 2012: The Posterior Cortical Atrophy working group paper was published, summarizing our discussion of priorities for research in this underserved area at the AAIC meeting in Vancouver, July 2012.
  • October 2012: Our new findings were published in Journal of Neuroscience showing that functional connectivity between the amygdala and key regions in large-scale brain networks subserving perceptual and reward-related behavior predict the size of healthy adults' social networks.
  • December 22 2011: Our new work on the Alzheimer-signature MRI biomarker was featured in more than 20 news outlets, including the Boston Globe, ABC News, CBS News, the Huffington Post, Medscape News, and Alz Forum. Read the scientific paper under the publications link.
  • Fall 2011: Dr. Poulin, formerly in our group, investigated the amygdala in Alzheimer's disease and found a surprising amount of shrinkage, raising the possibility that this may contribute to a variety of symptoms, particularly including changes in emotional processes, in the disease. Read about it in publications.
  • Summer 2011: Dr. McGinnis in our group published a paper on the topography of age-related cortical thinning in relation to normal brain development. Read about it in publications.
  • To read our April 2011 paper on detection of Alzheimer-related brain shrinkage in cognitively normal adults who develop AD dementia nearly a decade later, click on publications.
  • Click here to read about our ongoing work on the amygdala.
  • Click here to read about the news regarding the use of spinal fluid tests to assist in the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, including a NECN TV interview with Dr. Dickerson.
  • Click here to read about the newly proposed revised criteria for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, including a NPR-Boston interview with Dr. Dickerson.
  • Click here to read about our new research on the effects of different types of the APOE gene on the cognitive and anatomic expression of mild Alzheimer's disease, which was featured in a recent paper in PNAS.
  • Click here to read about our new research on large-scale functional brain networks and memory, including a new paper published in the journal Hippocampus.
  • Click here to read more about our studies on high resolution imaging of the human hippocampus, published as a special issue in the journal Hippocampus.
  • Click here to read about our paper on the "Cortical signature of Alzheimer's disease, featured in the March 2009 issue of Cerebral Cortex This article was selected as a Faculty of 1000 Medicine article--read about it here.
  • Click here to read more about our ongoing studies on frontotemporal dementias, primary progressive aphasia, posterior cortical atrophy, and related disorders.
  • Other news
  • What we're reading now  

Welcome to the Dickerson Lab

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In Brad Dickerson's Laboratory, we seek to understand the relationships between brain anatomy, physiology, and behavior in humans across the lifespan and in those with neurodegenerative diseases. Major focus areas of our research include: memory abilities and the brain systems that subserve them in normal individuals and how these abilities and brain systems change with aging, Alzheimer's disease, and related disorders (including frontotemporal dementias and posterior cortical atrophy); understanding how aging, Alzheimer's disease, and related disorders alter the normal anatomy and function of the human brain, and determining whether this knowledge can assist in diagnosis and monitoring of these conditions; and the further development of new neuroimaging and behavioral technology for making quantitative measurements of these abilities and brain systems. We are also pursuing studies of language and semantic knowledge in progressive aphasias; and social cognition and affective processing in normal aging and how these are affected by frontotemporal dementias and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, we pursue some investigations related to the development and promotion of capacities to compensate for age- and disease-related changes.

In our research on the anatomy and physiology of memory, we study brain structure and function using magnetic resonance imaging (structural and functional MRI), and try to understand the roles of various brain regions in normal human memory. Behavioral studies are also in progress to better understand how normal human memory works. Studies of aging focus primarily on individuals in their 50-90s, and seek to identify age-related changes in brain structure and function that relate to memory, language, and cognitive/affective/social task performance. Such investigations are also ongoing in people with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, primary progressive aphasia, frontotemporal dementia, posterior cortical atrophy, and related disorders.

In our research on the ways that aging, Alzheimer's disease, and related disorders affect brain anatomy, we use MRI to investigate the locations and degrees to which brain regions are affected by the disease, and how these changes relate to clinical symptoms and difficulties with the performance of cognitive tasks.

We continue to develop and apply neuroimaging methods including "ultra" high resolution MRI to study brain structure and function at an unprecedented level of detail. We are currently working to refine imaging methods to measure the functional and structural integrity of memory and other systems of the brain, including the functional connectivity of brain systems and how these measures relate to behavior.

A special focus of our research is on mild cognitive impairment (MCI), in which individuals demonstrate subtle memory loss that may be the earliest symptom of Alzheimer's disease but which is often difficult to distinguish from the aging process itself. We believe that brain imaging tools offer the potential to assist in the identification of individuals with the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, for whom treatments currently under evaluation to slow the disease process may ultimately be effective. Other individuals may have different types of mild cognitive impairment with early language, executive, or affective difficulties, which may be related to Alzheimer or non-Alzheimer pathologies.

In conjunction with a number of collaborators, in 2007 and 2008 Dr. Dickerson founded the MGH Frontotemporal Dementia Unit, Primary Progressive Aphasia Program, and Posterior Cortical Atrophy Program. The MGH FTD Unit aims to develop better knowledge about and diagnosis and treatment of all forms of FTD and related focal dementia syndromes. The PPA Program aims to better understand and treat primary progressive aphasia syndromes using existing technologies (including speech therapy) and by developing new diagnostic and treatment technologies. The PCA Program aims to better differentiate focal syndromes involving parietal and parieto-occipital dysfunction from other disorders for early diagnosis, and to better understand these disorders with the ultimate goal of improving treatment options.

Further details on projects in all of these areas are presented in the "Research" pages. "People" contains information on members of our research team. The "Tools" pages describe the tools and technology we use, some of which are uniquely available through the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, the MGH Gerontology Research Unit, the Massachusetts Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, and the MGH Center for Morphometric Analysis, with which our lab is affiliated. Scientific and clinical manuscripts are listed in "Publications." The "NAND group" (Neuroimaging of Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases) is a collaborative group of investigators with whom we work very closely on many joint projects. "How to participate" describes opportunities for participants of all types, including research subjects (we are currently recruiting), collaborators/students, and donors. The "MCI wiki" is an internal resource of our group's collective knowledge.

Our research is generously funded by the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Mental Health, and the Alzheimer's Association, as well as generous private donors.

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Upcoming Events
17th Charles River Association for Memory (CRAM) meeting
This meeting of the greater Boston-area memory research community will focus on false memory.
Boston, MA
December 11, 2013

Society for Neurobiology of Language
Dr. Dickerson and colleagues will be presenting new research at this meeting.
San Diego, CA
November 6-8, 2013

Society for Neuroscience
San Diego, CA
November, 2013

Recent Events
Alzheimer's Association International Conference
Dr. Dickerson and colleagues presented a variety of new research on cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases. Drs. Dickerson, Atri, and Tangalos co-directed the Primary Care Preconference on Sat Jul 13, which updated practicing physicians on the latest in clinical research and practice in AD and related disorders.
Boston, MA
July 13-18, 2013

17th Annual Harvard Dementia Course, under the direction of Dr. Dickerson and Dr. Atri
Boston, MA
May 29 - 31, 2013

15th meeting of the Charles River Association for Memory (CRAM)
Cambridge, MA

May 14, 2013

American Academy of Neurology
San Diego, CA

March, 2013

Society for Neuroscience
New Orleans, LA

Oct 13-17, 2012