All diseases target one brain region more than its neighbors. Why is that? After all, brain regions share the same genes and similar experiences throughout life. Answering this simple question can clarify causes of disease and provide clues for therapies. Answering this question for Alzheimer’s disease has been the goal of our lab. Although a simple question, pinpointing regions most vulnerable and resistant to Alzheimer’s is difficult.
In this lecture, Dr. Scott Small will review how we have used variants of MRI — in patients and in animal models — to answer the anatomical question. Then, he will discuss how we have uncovered a cellular pathway that explains why Alzheimer’s targets the vulnerable region and spares its neighbors. A range of recent studies have established that this pathway is one cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, he will end this lecture with a new beginning: Introducing a drug discovery program designed to correct defects in this Alzheimer’s-associated cellular pathway.
Scott A. Small, MD, is the Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University, where he is the Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology. He is appointed in the Departments of Neurology, Radiology, and Psychiatry.
With an expertise in Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive aging, Dr. Small’s research focuses on the hippocampus, a circuit in the brain targeted by these and other disorders, notably schizophrenia. He has pioneered the development and application of high-resolution functional MRI techniques that can pinpoint parts of the hippocampus most affected by aging and disease. His lab then uses this information to try to identify causes of these disorders. Over the years, his lab has used this ‘top-down’ approach to isolate pathogenic mechanisms related to Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive aging, and schizophrenia. More recently, his lab has used this insight for drug discovery and to develop novel therapeutic interventions, some of which are currently being tested in patients.
Dr. Small has co-authored over 120 articles and his neuroimaging and molecular work has led to 7 patents. Dr. Small is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Beeson Scholar Award in Aging Research from the American Federation on Aging, the McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award, the Derek Denny-Brown Young Neurological Scholar Award from the American Neurological Association, and the Lamport Award for Excellence in Clinical Science Research from Columbia University.
This talk is part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Brain Insight Lecture series, offered free to the public to enhance understanding of the biology of the mind and the complexity of human behavior. The lectures are hosted by Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.