Research Team / Research Group Name (if any)
Human Cognitive Neuroscience
Brief description of the Research Team / Research Group / Department
<br />International Research Project between Human Cognitive Neuroscience Groups from Heriot-Watt University (Dr. Parra) and Complutense University of Madrid (Dr. Fernández-Guinea). The hosting position is offered at Complutense University of Madrid. This multidisciplinary and international Research Group is formed by neuropscyhologists, neurophysiologists, neurologist, neuroradiologist, biologists and cognitive psychologists. The research focuses on the mechanisms underlying normal and abnormal cognitive ageing. We are interested in those cognitive and behavioral changes found in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer"s disease.<br />A new generation of challenging test for AD is fast approaching (Rentz et al. 2013). One such a test is the STMBT. The STMBT assesses the ability to hold, on a temporary basis, combinations of objects" features such as shapes and colours. This test has proved insensitive to healthy ageing (Brockmole et al. 2008; Parra et al. 2009b; van et al. 2014). However, it has proved sensitive to AD both in its sporadic (Parra et al. 2009a) and familiar variants (Parra et al. 2010b). The STMBT has been found to be unaffected by chronic depression in the elderly (Parra et al. 2010a) or by other types of dementia (Della Sala et al. 2012). Hence, in addition to support the early detection of AD, this test can also aid in the differential diagnosis of dementia. The test is unaffected by the cultural background of the affected individual (Parra et al. 2011).
Research lines / projects proposed
The STMBT identifies impairments in elderly with subjective cognitive complains who otherwise score normally on traditional neuropsychological tests (Koppara et al. 2014). Moreover, the STMBT detects impairment in APOE4 carriers who meet diagnostic criteria for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) (Caselli et al. 2014). Ongoing studies in MCI subjects with an unknown APOE genotype also confirm the presence of STM binding impairments in this population at risk for AD (Sartorio et al. 2014). The STMBT detects impairments in asymptomatic carriers of the mutation E280A of the PSEN1 gene which leads to familiar AD with 100% probability (Parra et al.2010b; Parra et al.2011). These results suggest that the STMBT can indeed identify subtle cognitive changes in otherwise completely asymptomatic individuals who will inevitably develop AD. We have proposed that STM binding is an early cognitive marker for AD. <br />The present study aims to investigate longitudinally (3 years) whether STM binding deficits are present in patients with amnestic MCI and whether this impairment predicts conversion to AD. To this aim, a research protocol has been designed which comprises a set of novel and traditional neuropsychological tasks known to be useful in the early detection of AD, and incorporates short term memory binding tasks. We also would like to incorporate MRI, fMRI and EEG information about the structural and functional organization of the brain network supporting STM binding functions in elderly with MCI. Combined analysis of STMB and network models could unveil a memory phenoty of prodromal AD. This approach will allow longitudinal investigation of the of the neural correlates of STMB deficits using a Mobile Brain Imaging tool.