The Sunnybrook Dementia Study (SDS)

Mapping Brain Changes in Alzheimer's, Vascular and Other Dementias

Location: Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (SHSC), Toronto, Canada

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sandra E. Black

The development of disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other related disorders has intensified efforts to use brain imaging more effectively for the diagnosis and monitoring of dementing illnesses. There is also emerging awareness of the destructive interplay between AD and Cerebrovascular Disease (CVD) in our aging population; both disorders share common vascular risk factors and may respond to similar prevention treatments. Brain mapping techniques capitalize on the fact that different neurodegenerative diseases target particular brain areas. Brain shrinkage and stroke damage can be quantified on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) using computerized analysis.

The Sunnybrook Dementia Study (SDS) is a prospective observational cohort study being conducted at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (SHSC) since 1995. The Principal Investigator of this study is Dr. Sandra E. Black, MD, SHSC and University of Toronto – Canada.

This study utilizes specialized imaging analysis software packages, such as the in-house developed Lesion Explorer pipeline, to reliably quantify brain tissue volumes and small vessel disease, the most common type of CVD. Results from this study will help to improve diagnosis, to customize treatment, and to better monitor disease-modifying therapies currently under investigation, should they become applicable to everyday practice.

This ongoing longitudinal study applies advanced MRI analysis, genetic testing, and standardized cognitive & functional assessments done at yearly intervals. Its purpose is to measure and monitor longitudinal change, and to potentially measure modifying effects of emerging therapies in patients with AD, vascular and other neurodegenerative diseases. Over 1000 patients (Mild Cognitive Impairment or dementia from AD, Vascular, Frontotemporal or Lewy Body Disease) and 125 normal elderly have already been enrolled, with additional organ donation of 150 brains at autopsy for further study.

The cohorts of interest include: Alzheimer's disease (AD), Vascular Cognitive Disorders (VCD), Lewy Body Disease (LBD), Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Behavioral-variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD), Language-variant Frontotemporal Dementia including Semantic dementia (SD), and Progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA), Corticobasal degeneration (CBD), Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and Cognitively Normal (CN) elderly.

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