2023 funding results

Each year, the Alzheimer Society Research Program funds dementia researchers across Canada, with a common goal of changing the future of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In 2023, we awarded nearly $6 million to 44 researchers nationally.


In 2023, the Alzheimer Society Research Program is investing $5,989,000 in 44 researchers and their projects. Our funding of nearly $6 million is up from $3.5 million in 2022, thanks to generous donors and funding partners, including Brain Canada Foundation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Aging, and Research Manitoba. 

The Alzheimer Society Research Program funds dementia research in Canada, through four award categories: Doctoral, Postdoctoral, New Investigator Grant and Proof of Concept Grant. The types of research we fund fall in to eight priority areas, listed below.  


Lillian Mei Kuen Hung, University of British Columbia, School of Nursing Lillian Mei Kuen Hung

Title: Bring joy and happiness to long-term care by co-building an immersive experience program 

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant

People living in long-term care (LTC) homes are often socially isolated. Evidence shows virtual reality (VR) can be used to support the mental health of older adults. Virtual programming supports access to meaningful activities that may help combat boredom and loneliness. People living with dementia may not tolerate traditional VR goggles, so implementing VR in LTC homes can be challenging.  

This study will offer a new, inclusive model where a low-cost and accessible virtual program can be co-created with and for people living with dementia to ensure meaningful impact of VR in that context. 

Madeline Gregory, University of Victoria  Madeline Gregory

Title: Exploring resiliency in informal caregivers of people living with dementia 

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award

Research has found that, compared to caregivers of other older adults without dementia, caregivers of people living with dementia report higher levels of stress. However, interventions addressing caregiver stress have not been very effective. Newer research focuses on resilience, defined as a trajectory in which an individual can not only adapt but enhance and grow in challenging circumstances.  

This study will investigate what resilience looks like for informal caregivers of people living with dementia and examine what behaviours lead to and promote resiliency. The study will also examine what the role of environmental (e.g., living arrangements) and individual (e.g., personality) factors are on caregiver resiliency. These studies will determine what factors influence a caregiver’s ability to participate in behaviours that promote resiliency. 

Chaitali Desai, University of Toronto  Chaitali Desai

Title: Dementia management in Canada: Is there a case for implementing and investing in assistive technology products and services bundles?  

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award  

Funding and provision of assistive technology products and services for people living with dementia varies across Canada. One way to improve access may be to bundle assistive technologies together to provide better support for people living with dementia and caregivers in Canada.  

This study will review characteristics of products and services that may form bundles, as well as examining opportunities for the design and implementation of bundles to better manage dementia. Project results will quantify gaps in assistive technology products and service use and access, identify areas where assistive technologies are missing, and offer policymakers recommendations for bundled assistive technologies for people living with dementia and caregivers.  

Marianne Saragosa, Sinai Health System  Marianne Saragosa

Title: Developing a provincial dementia care pathway using co-creation research 

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award  

Knowledge gaps can affect care partners’ long-term management of dementia. A dementia care pathway describes the care that a person receives from their family physician when dementia symptoms first start, to diagnosis, and then all the way to the very end-of-life. With enhanced knowledge of the pathways that currently exist, we could proactively better equip persons with dementia and care partners with the tools and information they need to live well.    

This study will map the current challenges and experience of people living with dementia. It will do this by interviewing people living with dementia, caregivers, and other key experts to develop a public-facing framework. A pathway prototype will then be developed that maps out important care information. This model will focus on Ontario, and it has the potential to serve as an example for other provinces and territories in Canada. 

Sophia Werden Abrams, McMaster University  Sophia Werden Abrams

Title: Development and implementation of a hydration intervention for long-term care residents with dementia who consume thickened liquids using the Knowledge to Action Framework   

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award  

Drinking enough liquids is important for staying healthy, but long-term care residents with dementia often don’t drink enough. One reason for this reduced intake may be that they have difficulty swallowing and thus need thickened drinks. A strategy is needed to help residents stay hydrated and healthy.  

This research will determine what helps and what prevents hydration of residents with dementia who drink thickened liquids. It will also develop strategies to improve hydration of residents who require thickened liquids alongside people with lived experience and a multidisciplinary team of researchers. This research will also test strategies with a group of long-term care residents who have been recommended to drink thickened liquids.  

Combining a few different strategies will help long-term care residents living with dementia stay hydrated.  

Alexandre Campeau-Lecours, Université Laval  Alexandre Campeau-Lecours

Title: User-centered development and validation of an intelligent drink reminder device  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

Dehydration can be dangerous for older adults. Complications include urinary tract infections, increased risk of falls, dizziness, weakness, low blood pressure, kidney damage, delirium, and seizures. People living with dementia have a higher risk of dehydration. 

This study will lead to a solution that reminds people living with dementia to stay hydrated. The objectives are to determine how effective an intelligent drink reminder is at increasing hydration; to determine how to optimize hydration, usability, and acceptability of a drink reminder; and to improve a drink-reminder prototype.  

Barbara Delacourt, Centre de recherche de l'institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, affilié à l'Université de Montréal  Barbara Delacourt

Title: Study of the communicational commitment between people living with dementia and their caregivers in the context of the co-viewing of audiovisual content with emotional valence 

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award  

People living with dementia can have communication difficulties which can lead to social isolation and depersonalized care. This isolation can also contribute to increases in responsive behaviors. Challenges due to communication difficulties and behaviours can also increase caregiver stress.  

This researcher’s previous studies have shown that it is possible to improve communication, empathy, and quality of life by co-viewing videos that generate positive emotions.  

This study will examine how co-viewing videos that generate positive emotions promotes communication and empathy between people living with dementia and caregivers in long-term care.  

Tamara Sussman, The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning/McGill University  Tamara Sussman

Title: From substitution to participation: recognizing persons with dementia as social citizens  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

The Canadian Charter of Rights for People with Dementia states that persons with dementia must receive the support needed to participate as fully as possible in decisions that affect them. Yet people living with dementia are often excluded from participating in decisions. 

This study will co-develop materials that provide direction on how to better support people living with moderate dementia to participate in decisions that affect them. We will co-develop these materials with people living with moderate dementia and their care partners, including people with marginalized intersecting identities. This project aims to empower people living with moderate dementia, including marginalized persons, to share their experiences of being supported in or excluded from decision-making.  

Claire Godard-Sebillotte,  Université McGill, Institut de Recherche du Centre Universitaire de Santé McGill  Claire Godard-Sebillotte

Title: Using health services by people living with a major neurocognitive disorder at home: exploring differences based on social determinants of health to inform equitable health policies 

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Aging 

People living with dementia who are living at home are particularly at risk of healthcare inequity. This study will develop recommendations to improve health services for people living with dementia who are living at home and care partners, including considerations for inequities related to gender, socio-economic status, race, and rurality.  

The study will include statistical analysis regarding health service usage in Quebec. It will also include in-depth interviews of people with lived experience of dementia. This study has the potential to create meaningful and rapid impact on the daily lives of people with lived experience of dementia in Quebec and across Canada. 

Nia KingNia Kang, McGill University  

Title: Sociocultural adaptation and validation of cognitive assessment tools used for dementia diagnosis in primary care: Inclusive care for aging immigrants  

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award  

In Canada, there is a lack of culturally relevant support for immigrants with diverse backgrounds who are seeking or who have recently received a diagnosis of dementia. Currently no effective framework exists to guide the adaptation and validation of dementia diagnosis among immigrants.  

This study will explore how Korean immigrants who cannot communicate fluently in English or French access a dementia diagnosis. The objective is improved access to dementia diagnosis amongst immigrants in Canada and beyond by educating family physicians on how to diagnose individuals with complex sociocultural backgrounds.  

Harmehr Sekhon, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)  Harmehr Sekhon

Title: Virtual reality mindfulness meditation intervention for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia  

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award  

Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia are common in people living with dementia. Changes in behaviour are often treated with medication. However, these medications can be harmful to the patient’s health. Guidelines recommend non-medication treatment of these symptoms. One alternative treatment may be mindfulness meditation, but professionals providing treatment can be difficult to access and have long waiting lists.  

This study will explore a mindfulness meditation program delivered by virtual reality (VR), allowing users to interact within a simulated environment using devices such as a headset or goggles. VR-guided meditation may lead to a more immersive and engaging experience than traditional meditation. VR can also address many barriers in traditionally delivered meditation, like program access, transport, and mobility issues.  

The study’s expected outcome is that virtual reality medication will decrease symptoms of agitation and depression in participants with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.  


Keith Murai, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre  Keith Murai

Title: Understanding Porphyromonas Gingivalis infection in Alzheimer’s disease  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept  

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation.  

Periodontitis, a chronic oral inflammatory disease-causing tissue damage, bone deterioration and tooth loss, has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Porphyromonas gingivalis, a key bacterium causing periodontitis, has been found in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients, and it is believed to contribute to brain pathology. However, there is a lack of direct evidence connecting periodontitis with Alzheimer’s disease.  

This study will investigate how infection by  Porphyromonas gingivalis contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. Using animal modeling, the researcher will determine how Porphyromonas gingivalis reaches the brain. The investigation will include looking at how Porphyromonas gingivalis disrupts brain cells to trigger inflammation and brain changes often seen in Alzheimer’s disease.  

Reducing  Porphyromonas gingivalis in the mouth or lowering its propagation to the nervous system may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and/or diminish the severity of brain damage seen in the late stages of this disease. 

Sarah Gagliano Taliun, Montreal Heart Institute  Sarah Gagliano Taliun

Title: Bioinformatics-powered genetic characterization of the impact of biological systems on Alzheimer's disease and neurodegeneration  

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Aging 

Late-onset neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, are caused by an interplay of hundreds of genes and lifestyle or environmental factors. Traditionally thought of as disorders of the brain, there is emerging evidence that multiple biological systems contribute to these diseases.  

This study will answer this question: Can we use genetic information to identify heart and immune system characteristics that influence the onset of dementias and Alzheimer’s disease?    

The knowledge gained from this work will increase our understanding of the biological factors that contribute to the onset of dementias and Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding more about the causes of dementia is critical for prevention. This research may form a steppingstone for future study on how treating health or immune system conditions could also work to help prevent dementia.   

Shady Rahayel, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, CIUSSS-du-Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal  Shady Rahayel,

Title: Study of the genetic and connectomic bases of cerebral atrophy associated with Lewy body dementia. 

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant  

Dementia with Lewy bodies is a neurocognitive disorder, that can cause hallucinations, difficulty concentrating, sleep disorders and abnormal movements.  

This study’s objective is to create the largest-yet database of brain scans from people living with dementia with Lewy bodies. In this way, this study will generate a reliable understanding of changes in the brains of people who are living with dementia with Lewy bodies. This study will also examine whether and how these brain changes relate to genetics or connectivity. This research will contribute to new tools to diagnose dementia with Lewy bodies. It will also grow new ideas for treatments that may potentially stop or slow down the development and progression of disease in people living with dementia with Lewy bodies. 

Peter Stys, University of Calgary  Peter Stys

Title: Quantitative fluorescence spectroscopy of the central nervous system amylome 

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept  

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

It is generally acknowledged that accumulation of misfolded proteins (amyloid) in brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients is a key disease phenomenon. But not all amyloids cause disease, and those that do come in many different varieties. Currently, there is a lack of good ways to assess the misfolded character of brain proteins.  

The goal of this study is to devise new methods to more accurately assess the nature and extent of amyloid accumulation in the brain.  

This study’s approach will yield new methods for detecting a variety of amyloids in the brain. It will also allow detection of very subtle pathology (unlike the more obvious, and well-known, plaques). Eventually, this study’s methods could be adapted to blood or other body fluids for early detection and response to treatment. 

Min Su Kang, Sunnybrook Research Institute  Min Su Kang

Title: Multi-scale characterization of molecular and connectomic vulnerability to AD pathology  

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award  

Understanding how amyloid-beta and tau build up and spread to different brain regions in Alzheimer’s disease is key to discovering a new drug target and treatment strategy. This study will investigate how brain connection affects the spread of amyloid-beta and tau proteins in Alzheimer’s disease. This study will also investigate whether different patterns of connection change and protein spread can be predicted.  

This study will analyze scans to study gradual and subtle changes in connection and protein spreading within and between neighbouring regions within brains with Alzheimer’s disease. This research will use the human gene expression atlas (Allen Human Brain Atlas) to link biological steps contributing to the abnormal spreading of proteins along brain connections. Halting the spread of amyloid-beta and tau could slow or stop the cognitive decline and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  

Khaled Abdelrahman, University of British Columbia  Khaled Abdelrahman

Title: The contribution of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) to impaired control of brain blood flow in Alzheimer’s disease  

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant    

The number of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly increasing. Women represent approximately 60 per cent of diagnosed cases. Memory changes in people living with Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to shortage in blood supply to the brain. Although the causes of this poor supply of blood remain unknown, it starves brain cells of essential nutrients and oxygen leading to improper function.  

This study will explore a molecule present in the brain cells called metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) because it attaches to the toxic proteins named β-Amyloid and tau that are commonly found in a brain with Alzheimer’s disease.  

This research will help explain the major role that mGluR5 plays in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and whether this role is different between men and women. 

Reggie Taylor, The University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research  Reggie Taylor 

Title: Amyloid deposition and the glymphatic system assessed simultaneously in Alzheimer's disease using PET/MRI  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

Poor sleep is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. This is likely due to sleep’s role in removing waste products from the brain. There is currently no way to view this waste removal process without posing a risk to the individual, but new approaches using medical imagining technologies may be able to help. 

This study will use several magnetic resonance imaging scans to gain information on how waste is cleared by the brain. By using several scans together, we can get a more complete picture of this waste removal process. Scans can also be used to better understand how much of the toxic waste products have accumulated in the brain over time. These waste accumulation and removal processes within the brain have not been previously studied using a medical imaging approach.  If we find that the waste clearance process is not working properly within people living with Alzheimer’s disease, it could lead to innovations for both treatment and prevention.   

Measuring the brain’s waste clearance process with medical imaging will allow more detailed study in future. If the waste clearance process is not working properly within people living with Alzheimer’s disease, it could be an area of treatments and preventative study.  

Zoe Tasma, University of Ottawa  Zoe Tasma

Title: Exploring the Role of mGluR5 expressing astrocytes in Alzheimer’s disease pathophysiology  

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award 

β-amyloid is a toxic protein that damages the brain in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Its actions are mediated by the metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5). Blocking mGluR5 in mice with Alzheimer’s disease improves the disease progression in males, but not females. This difference may be taking place in a specific cell type in the brain called astrocytes because mGluR5 is abundantly present in this cell type.  

This study aims to better understand the differences in mGluR5’s action between men and women, and to determine the contribution of astrocytes to mGluR5’s harmful effects.  

Removing mGluR5 is expected to reduce anxiety and improve memory in mice with Alzheimer’s disease. The outcomes of this research will help advance the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and differences between the sexes, which may ultimately contribute to targeted treatments to benefit all people living with Alzheimer’s disease.  

Abid Oueslati, University of Laval  Abid Oueslati

Title: Alzheimer’s disease - Parkinson’s disease spectrum disorder: how the protein aggregate strains dictate the disease manifestation 

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

Although Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are different conditions, there are striking similarities and neuropathological overlaps between the two. The common cellular and molecular mechanisms shared between the two conditions remains unclear.  

This study’s hypothesis is that two proteins implicated in both diseases, might come together and form damaging clusters leading to Alzheimer’s disease. We will investigate how a α-synuclein (protein #1) promotes tau (protein #2) aggregation in human brain tissue in, whether the clusters that are formed are toxic for brain cells, and how these proteins promote each other’s development in the brain. This work will rely on a new, state-of-the-art technique using light to induce protein aggregation in neurons. This study may lead to a better understanding of cellular and molecular dysfunction, perhaps one day contributing to the slowing down or curing of Alzheimer’s disease.  


Ryan Muir, University of Calgary  Ryan Muir

Title:Relationships between plasma biomarkers, neuroimaging biomarkers and cognitive impairment in cerebral amyloid angiopathy 

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award 

In Alzheimer’s disease, toxic proteins (amyloid beta and tau) accumulate and cause brain degeneration. Amyloid can build up and damage small blood vessels in the brain. This process is called cerebral amyloid angiopathy. This angiopathy can cause brain bleeding and lead to cognitive impairment, disability and death. Diagnosing and detecting this type of angiopathy is challenging.  

In this study, people with Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy will be recruited and undergo a brain MRI, blood collection, and cognitive testing. In part, the study will deploy new technologies that measure levels of amyloid and tau in blood. If the study identifies a unique blood profile that can be used to diagnose those with cerebral amyloid angiopathy, it could potentially justify the use of these blood tests in clinical settings. This could facilitate earlier and more accurate diagnosis. 

Jennifer Cooper, University of British Columbia  Jennifer Cooper

Title: Blood-based biomarkers of neurodegeneration across the health spectrum   

Award: Doctoral Award 

Brain diseases are mainly diagnosed through memory tests and brain imaging. But new technology can measure of proteins in blood that originate from the brain. This enables the development of blood tests for certain brain diseases. 

This study aims to understand what these protein (or biomarker) measurements look like across the entire spectrum of brain health. It will determine whether these blood tests can tell the difference between people who are healthy and people who have brain disease. It will also explore if these blood tests can distinguish between different types of dementia.  

This study will lay groundwork for establishing blood tests as an efficient way to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and other dementias in Canada. 

Michael Adachi, Simon Fraser University  Michael Adachi

Title: Sensors for rapid detection of Alzheimer's disease biomarker proteins  

Award: Proof of Concept Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

Biomarkers are measurable indicators that help determine if a person may have, or be at risk of, developing a disease. Changes in the brain can start more than a decade before first clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. A simple test to screen for protein biomarkers may help clinicians diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage. And the early stage is when available treatments and lifestyle changes that support brain health can be most effective.  

The long-term objective of this study is to develop a simple, low-cost screening tool that can detect multiple Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. The short-term objective of this study is to demonstrate ultra-sensitive detection of two Alzheimer’s disease biomarker proteins in blood samples and generate new approaches to detect them.  

This research may lead to a simple and rapid biomarker protein screening tool that could help clinicians diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. 

Printha Wijesinghe, University of British Columbia  Printha Wijesinghe

Title: Using tear fluids to assess Alzheimer’s disease  

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award  

Recent discoveries have shown that eye tissue, and even tears, produced by a person living with Alzheimer’s disease can contain harmful proteins and small pieces of genetic material – microRNAs – that control genes. Since microRNAs are stable in body fluids, they serve as potential biomarkers that can tell us about the severity of a person’s Alzheimer’s disease. This study will examine if microRNAs in tear fluids can predict Alzheimer’s disease.  

Justin Hicks, Western University  Justin Hicks 

Title: Technetium-99m-based radioligands for improving access to state-of-the-art molecular imaging of neurodegeneration 

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

Medical imaging has changed how we study and treat brain degeneration. The best tool for imaging subtle changes to brain proteins is positron emission tomography (or PET). But that has limited availability. An equivalent tool, single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is more available. But SPECT lacks radioactive probes that generate certain images. This situation limits access to best brain-study tools in rural areas and developing nations.  

This study will develop SPECT probes to improve access to imaging. Specifically, the team will create and evaluate molecules labeled with technetium-99m, as this is the most-used radionuclide in the world. 

The primary outcome of this research will be SPECT radioligands that can image proteins known to play a role in dementia. These can then be used as a diagnostic tool to screen people at risk for developing dementia, to track disease progress, or evaluate therapy effectiveness. 


Brianne Kent, Simon Fraser University Brianne Kent

Title: How circadian rhythms affect resilience in Alzheimer's disease  

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant 

One of the challenges to understanding Alzheimer’s disease is identifying why some people with seemingly similar brain disease can have different symptoms. This study aims to identify whether the body’s internal clock can contribute to someone’s resilience. 

Even before memory loss is noticed, evidence suggests that individuals who are developing Alzheimer’s disease have a weaker internal clock. For example, sleeping less at night and napping more during the day may be an early sign that the disease is developing.  

This study will partner with the British Columbia Generations Project to recruit participants. It will examine factors that affect brain health and risk of dementia. This study will also add measures of the internal clock, as well as detailed cognitive assessments and brain scans, to assess brain health and resilience. 

Shanna Kousaie, University of Ottawa  Shanna Kousaie

Title: Resting-state measures of the impact of language experience on cognitive reserve in aging and cognitive impairment  

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant  

Aging and cognitive impairment affect how brain networks communicate. This makes those networks less efficient.  

Some lifestyle factors are known to support healthy cognitive aging. Examples of helpful factors include education and social engagement.  

Bilingual language experience may be a positive factor, too. This study will investigate how bilingualism supports healthy cognitive aging. It will examine the influence of different language experiences on the timing and location of brain network activity. And this study aims to clarify the specific effects of different language experiences on the brain and cognition.   

This study expects to find a positive association between bilingualism and brain-network activity that supports cognition. This may in turn show that bilingualism, which crosses socioeconomic boundaries, is a factor that contributes to maintaining healthy cognition in aging. 


Dylan Guan, University of Calgary  Dylan Guan

Title: Understanding and unifying cognitive, behavioural, and sensorimotor markers of dementia to enhance prognostication and risk assessment 

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award 

Some indicators of dementia appear years, or even decades, before dementia is diagnosed.  

This study will examine which indicators are the most important to look for early on. This study will also explore how these indicators can be used to predict who is most likely to develop dementia.  

This study aims to enhance future dementia research on treatment and prevention.  

Danielle D'Amico, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care  Danielle D'Amico

Title: Evaluating the feasibility and efficacy of a personalized dementia risk reduction program for middle-aged and older adults  

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award  

Risk-reduction programs that are tailored to a person’s unique dementia risk factors are important to maximizing benefit. Yet no studies have looked at whether a personalized dementia risk-reduction program would be effective at lowering dementia risk and preserving cognitive function. 

This study aims to evaluate the effects of a personalized dementia risk-reduction program on dementia risk and cognitive function in adults aged 50 and up who are at risk of developing dementia.  

This study will provide important information to improve the lives of people who are at risk of developing dementia. This study will also provide aging individuals with an evidence-based opportunity to keep their brains healthier for longer. 

Madeline Wood, Sunnybrook Research Institute  Madeline Wood

Title: Investigating the combined contributions of vascular risk and menopause history to Alzheimer’s disease in Canadian women  

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award  

Roughly two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease are women. This study will explore whether early menopause, when combined with vascular risk factors, leads to worsened cognition and Alzheimer’s brain changes.  

This study will also investigate whether taking hormone replacement medication during menopause can protect against cognitive and brain changes caused by Alzheimer’s disease.  

This study will also examine how interventions targeting both estrogen loss and vascular health could possibly reduce dementia rates in many women. 

Myuri Ruthirakuhan, Sunnybrook Research Institute  Myuri Ruthirakuhan

Title: Identifying profiles of cardiovascular multimorbidity and investigating its impact on dementia risk: a population-based study  

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award  

Cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes have been associated with an increased dementia risk.  

Most studies on this topic have investigated the impact of individual risk factors only. But investigating how such factors can co-occur, and how this could increase the risk of dementia, is an important research priority too.  

This study will identify groups of cardiovascular risk factors that co-occur with one another. This study will then determine the risk of dementia within each group. This information would help improve risk-reduction efforts in future. 

Annalise LaPlume, Geriatrics Research, Annalise LaPlumeToronto Metropolitan University 

Title: Sex Matters: Investigating how lifestyle factors and sex differences influence memory and brain connectivity in individuals at risk for dementia  

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award  

Lifestyle changes can build a “reserve” that protects the brain against negative effects. This then lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  

Early findings from research suggest lifestyle changes may offer a bigger protective effect for women than for men. This study will examine that idea. It will use memory tests, lifestyle questionnaires and brain scans with a group of people who are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.   

The study team will then measure how changes in memory and brain performance may be related to gender and lifestyle factors.  

This project will produce guidelines for people to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by making lifestyle changes. These guidelines will be tailored for men and women separately. 


Yi Ren, University of Calgary  Yi Ren

Title: Retrosplenial cortex parvalbumin interneurons in Alzheimer’s disease related cognitive impairments

Award/Grant: Postdoctoral Award 

The retrosplenial cortex plays a critical role in cognition and memory. And it is impaired very early on in Alzheimer’s disease.  

The retrosplenial cortex could, therefore, be an ideal target for early intervention to limit cognitive issues. This study aims to better understand how neuron activity becomes imbalanced in this brain area during Alzheimer’s disease. It will also demonstrate how inhibitory neurons may counteract the non-specific brain hyperactivity that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease and is related to cognitive impairment. 

Sriram Subramaniam, University of British Columbia  Sriram Subramaniam

Title: Disrupting GluA1-VCP/p97 as a novel therapeutic intervention to restore synaptic plasticity in Alzheimer’s disease: A cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) based approach  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

Many proteins in our brain are responsible for memory and learning. These proteins frequently come together to form larger complexes.  

This study will explore the molecular structure of these complexes to find areas where drugs can attach and rescue diseased cells. Once these areas are located, various drugs will be tested on the site to determine if the proteins can regain their normal functioning.  

If the experiments in this study are successful, the outcomes could support new dementia treatments in future.  

Nahum Sonenberg, McGill University  Nahum Sonenberg

Title: Control of mRNA translation in microglia response to Alzheimer's disease pathology  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant 

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

Microglia are the brain’s immune cells, and their role is to protect the brain. Yet in Alzheimer’s disease, these cells are often found diseased as well.  

In a brain with Alzheimer’s disease, the microglia’s ability to provide instruction is defective. This study’s hypothesis is that restoring translation on microglia will restore their ability to restrain Alzheimer’s disease pathology. 

Many studies address microglia function by measuring cell instructions. This study will explore several experimental paradigms to examine the mechanisms and consequences of restoring translation in microglia responding to Alzheimer’s disease pathology.  

This research could open new treatment avenues to boost microglia’s protective roles.  

Chelsea Ann Crossley, Memorial University of Newfoundland Chelsea Ann Crossley

Title: Pre-tangle tau in the hippocampus impairs synaptic plasticity and spatial memory via L-type calcium channels: A hypothesis 

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award  

Calcium dysregulation has been implicated in both aging and Alzheimer’s disease. But a knowledge gap remains on how correcting calcium dysregulation could be therapeutic.  

In both aging and brains with Alzheimer’s disease, higher levels of calcium enter into neurons via L-type calcium channels (LTCCs). Drugs known as “LTCC blockers” are already used as hypertensive drugs. Now, this study will test the therapeutic effects of LTCC blockers in Alzheimer’s disease.  

The findings could provide insight as to what mechanisms underlie the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  


Rebeca Hernández Gamboa, University of British Columbia  Rebeca Hernández Gamboa

Title: Refining exercise prescription to promote cognitive health in mild cognitive impairment: understanding the what and the how  

Award/Grant: Doctoral Award  

Exercise has been shown to reduce dementia risk. But which type of exercise is best, or how do different exercise types reduce risk? 

There are two main types of exercise training: Aerobic training (e.g., running, brisk walking) is aimed at improving cardiovascular health. Resistance training (e.g., lifting weights) is aimed at improving muscle strength.  

This study aims to examine and compare how different types of exercise training programs (aerobic training, resistance training, and their combination) affect the cognitive function of older adults living with mild cognitive impairment. Also, this study aims to understand how each exercise benefits cognitive function. 

This study’s findings will facilitate more precise and individualized exercise recommendations that benefit cognitive function. This will improve quality of life and independence of older adults living with mild cognitive impairment. 

Maiya Geddes, McGill University  Maiya Geddes

Title: An intergenerational behavioural intervention to enhance physical activity in older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease  

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

Physical activity is one of the most important means of reducing risk of dementia. And new strategies are needed to support older adults in becoming more active.  

This study will test whether a new cross-generational intervention increases physical activity in adults over 60. The participants are at a high risk for dementia and are currently part of the PREVENT-AD longitudinal cohort at McGill University. 

This research will also reveal the brain circuits and processes underlying successful lifestyle change at the individual level.  

Overall, this study’s findings will help to further develop the right dementia-risk intervention for the right person at the right time. 

Andrée-Ann Baril, Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine, Research Center of the CIUSSS-NIM  Andrée-Ann Baril

Title: Plasma biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in insomnia before and after cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Aging 

Insomnia could increase the risk for Alzheimer's disease.  Insomnia can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). But researchers don’t know how this treatment for insomnia might impact Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. 

This study, performed in individuals without dementia, will investigate whether people with insomnia have higher blood levels of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease than people without insomnia. 

One aim is to better understand whether insomnia increases susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. Another aim is to understand whether CBT can improve the levels of these blood-based biomarkers.  

In this way, this study will establish CBT for insomnia as a potential avenue to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  

This study will also identify profiles of insomniacs who may be more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease. These profiles could be used in clinical settings to target people who would benefit from preventive therapies. 


Leigh Anne Swayne, University of Victoria  Leigh Anne Swayne 

Title: Repairing nerve cell connections in Alzheimer's disease  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

The loss of connections between nerve cells is an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. The loss of these connections also causes difficulty thinking and processing information. 

Unfortunately, we do not yet understand why this connection loss occurs. Research has shown that the structures that make up the connections become unstable and then are lost. And we have an idea of the processes that might be involved, but do not have certainty about all of them.  

What causes the loss of nerve-cell connections, and can we prevent their loss? These questions are at the heart of this study, which will focus on a protein called pannexin 1. This protein increases in cells of people living with Alzheimer’s disease. It also destabilizes nerve-cell connections. This study will explore whether targeting pannexin 1 can help prevent the loss of nerve-cell connections.  

Eftekhar Eftekharpour, University of Manitoba  Eftekhar Eftekharpour

Title: Examination of neuronal nuclear damage as a new player in pathology of Alzheimer’s disease  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by Research Manitoba. 

Biomedical research efforts into Alzheimer’s disease have mostly focused on removing amyloid plaques, which are thought to be the main contributor to nerve-cell death. Some have proposed that these plaques are the result of other important systems malfunctioning.  

Researchers have found, for instance, that the nerve-cell nucleus is severely damaged in the brains of people who have had Alzheimer’s disease. And a decreased level of thioredoxin (an antioxidant protein) can cause nuclear damage and change gene expression.  

This study will test a potential antioxidant drug in a mouse model. This experimental drug is a small molecule than can enter the brain. If successful, this drug could be used for future clinical trials.  

This research will also show whether using this antioxidant drug in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may be protective for nerve cells. 

Tiina Kauppinen, University of Manitoba  Tiina Kauppinen

Title: NUDT5 as a therapeutic target in Alzheimer's disease  

Award/Grant: Proof of Concept Grant  

This project is generously co-funded by Research Manitoba.  

This study aims to look at a pathway to possible slowing or stopping of Alzheimer’s disease progression. The pathway this study is looking at is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is bad for brain cell function.  

This research will focus on an enzyme called NUDT5. NUDT5 plays a prominent role in inflammatory signaling that exacerbates neurodegeneration in people with Alzheimer’s disease.  

So far, this research team has developed a way of inhibiting the action of NUDT5. This method targets inflammatory pathways without toxic side effects.  

In this study, the team will explore how this enzyme inhibitor could reduce cellular changes and slow memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Donald Weaver, University Health Network  Donald Weaver

Title: Design and development of novel analogs of beta-alanine as therapies for Alzheimer's 

Award/Grant: Proof Concept Grant   

This project is generously co-funded by the Brain Canada Foundation. 

 When brain cells are injured during Alzheimer’s disease, those cells may either die or become too electrically excitable.  

This study’s objective is to design drugs that prevent harmful levels of electrical excitability in brain cells.   

The expected outcome of is to discover a prototype new drug for Alzheimer’s disease. This drug will target a new concept:  that brain electrical hyperexcitability causes disease progression. 

Natalie Zeytuni, McGill University  Natalie Zeytuni

Title: Alternative strategies to prevent oral pathogens infection and battle Alzheimer's disease  

Award/Grant: New Investigator Grant  

Bacteria involved in gum disease can be found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These bacteria help release toxins into different tissues, including the brain. And these toxins, in turn, increase amyloid beta in the brain, contributing to Alzheimer’s disease.  

This study will explore how gum-disease bacteria shuttle toxins for release. Targeting this “shuttling machinery” can prevent toxin release and disease. The results will serve as a canvas for the design of new drugs to reduce progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.