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  • Read more about our research on SuperAging. We hope this work will lead toward new ideas about how to maintain our brain and age successfully. Read more about it here.
  • More information about Dr. Dickerson's books on dementia can be found by clicking here.
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  • 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, language, emotional, and social 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 in progressive aphasias; and social cognition and affective functions 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 and other cognitive functions, we study brain structure and function using magnetic resonance imaging (structural and functional MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), and try to understand the roles of various brain systems in these functions. 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, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, and related disorders.

    In our research on the ways that aging, Alzheimer's disease, and related disorders affect brain anatomy, we use MRI and PET to investigate the locations and degrees to which brain regions are affected by the disease, the molecules involved in these diseases, and how these imaging measures 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 actively working with colleagues to develop and apply new PET methods to measure molecules in the brain that have never been measured before, such as tau. 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 or other cognitive 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 or FTD or related disorders, 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 Disorders 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, atypical AD, and related focal or young-onset 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, the Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging program, and the MGH Center for Morphometric Analysis, with which our lab is affiliated. Scientific and clinical manuscripts are listed in "Publications." "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, the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders, and the Alzheimer's Association, as well as generous private donors.

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    The 24th Harvard Dementia course ran virtually from May 27 - 30. Click here for course book and other material discussed at the course.
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