PI: Oscar Lopez
Institution: University of Pittsburgh


The aging brain suffers from progressive brain tissue loss, putting hundreds of millions of us at risk for memory loss and dementia with no known cure. Physical activity, inflammation, growth factors, and homocysteine may affect brain integrity in older adults. These variables interact with each other to influence brain structure and disease risk in complex and striking ways. To resist the looming epidemic of degenerative disease, we must determine how such variables deter brain decline. This grant maps how these vital processes, which are targetable with interventions, relate to brain structure and future cognitive decline. We relate brain and cognitive decline in two populations to (1) an inflammatory marker and related neurodegenerative risk genes, (2) growth factor and homocysteine levels, and (3) physical exercise. We will discover how these variables interact to promote or deter brain disease, in our regions of interest (ROIs) – the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex (PFC), and cingulate gyrus. This work is crucial to combat diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and schizophrenia (SZ), among others that are both related to these variables and marked by deficits in these ROIs.