Understanding Early Effects of Amyloid and Tau in Different Memory Domains

Xi Chen, PhD The University of California


William Jagust, MD


The goal of the project is to examine if the initial deposition of amyloid and tau may lead to certain memory deficits that reflect specific brain vulnerabilities in the related memory networks. The first aim of the project is to develop a new memory task that detects different types of memory deficits, by measuring memory for objects, scenes, and associations, separately. I will administer this task in older adults with and without amyloid and tau, and examine if having certain pathologies may be related to specific memory deficits. This task will be administered using fMRI, which records brain activity while participants complete the task. The second aim, thus, is to understand how amyloid and tau affect different regions in the brain that support different types of memory.

Project Details

This project innovatively proposes a new memory task that measures memory for object, scene, and their associations. Memory assessment in AD research has been almost exclusively on words and stories. This task uses common, everyday images, mimicking how memory works in real life. And its complexity makes it sensitive enough for detecting deficits even in the early stage of AD. The focus of specific links between pathology and memory function is also unique. It will provide crucial knowledge that could lead to better behavioral tests useful for early diagnosis and screening in clinical trials. The knowledge of specific links between amyloid/tau and certain memory deficits can help researchers develop new behavioral tests corresponding to a specific pathology, which could contribute to early diagnosis and screening for clinical research and therapeutic trials developing treatments targeting specific biomarkers. Currently, biomarker status can only be examined by conducting invasive or expensive procedures like a lumbar puncture or PET scan. Having sensitive and specific behavioral markers for certain AD pathology could also make large-scale screening for the general public possible.