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The Clinical and Risk Factors for Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Group of the Barcelonaβeta Brain Research Center (BBRC) works on Alzheimer’s disease prevention and healthy aging research from a multidisciplinary perspective. It examines the biological processes that precede dementia’s onset with the final aim of establishing prevention programs to stop or, at least, delay the occurrence of cognitive decline and, ultimately, dementia in asymptomatic persons at risk.  

The research group is composed of a multidisciplinary team with experts on clinical, genetic, biomarker and neuropsychological assessment. 

Research lines

Dementia prevention toolbox

The possibility of further stage and stratification of Alzheimer’s disease patients in order to deliver a precision medicine to all patients, in such a way that diagnosis, treatment, and prevention are “tailored” to the characteristics of the individual implies a personalized medicine approach. Thus, it results in a change from the traditional diagnostic paradigm to a new one in which people at risk are attended to disclose risk factors estimates and are offered personalized solutions. This paradigm shift brings in important consequences the main one being that disclosing medical information may potentially generate emotional impact, psychological burden or harm. Through the Barcelonaeta Dementia Prevention Research Clinic, BBRC researchers are assessing whether disclosing risk factor estimates is safe from the emotional and psychological point of view and if there are any benefits derived from personalized plans received by subjects.

Association between sleeping disorders, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease

The objective of this research line is to evaluate the impact of sleeping disorders in the cognitive performance and the cerebral morphology in cognitively healthy individuals, as well as their association with biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Subjective cognitive decline. Cerebral changes and objective cognitive performance

Subjective cognitive decline (SCD) is a self-experienced persistent decline in cognitive capacity in comparison with a previously normal status and not related to an acute event. Although it is normal to perceive a decline in memory and other cognitive capacities in aging, many psychological and medical factors affect this subjective perception and are associated with an incremented risk of suffering Alzheimer’s disease. Identifying these factors and the biological changes that determine whether memory complaints represent an initial expression of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease will contribute to the early diagnosis and to a better screening of participants for prevention studies.   

Epidemiology: pollution, anxiety, depression and others

The data obtained within the Alfa Study enables the development of studies related to different fields such as the role of pollution on anxiety and depression, the association between bilingualism and structural endophenotypes, and the genetic variables associated with certain structural, functional and multimodal imaging endophenotypes that are identified in individuals at risk.    

The role of vascular risk factors in Alzheimer’s disease pathophysiology

BBRC has a collaboration agreement with the Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research to perform a longitudinal vascular and brain phenotyping of asymptomatic subjects at different risks for Alzheimer’s disease and atherosclerosis. The study will be carried out in participants from the Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis study (PESA), run by the CNIC, and the BBRC’s ALFA cohort. 

Effect of dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease

Dietary fat quality is a major determinant of health and disease. One of the most investigated fats are the omega-3 fatty acids, which are supplied by fatty fish and certain vegetables such as walnuts and flax seed. DHA is the main omega-3 and is an integral part of the cells of our brain. Research conducted in animals uncovered the neuroprotective properties of this fat. The aim of this research line is to investigate whether dietary intake of DHA or its parent foods in the preclinic stages of Alzheimer’s disease might help delay the onset of the disease. 

Prevention of cognitive impairment after a multimodal intervention combined with EGCG in APOE4 carriers with subjective cognitive decline

The purpose of the PENSA study is to investigate the effect on the progression of cognitive impairment of an intervention based on the follow-up of a healthy lifestyle, complemented with a natural compound of green tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

This intervention consists of a personalized action plan based on their life habits and health indicators. Gradually, participants will be helped to make appropriate changes to try to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment. More information

Reserve, resilience and lifestyle

The objective of this research line is to understand the brain mechanisms and modifiable factors that make some people resilience against Alzheimer's disease.

There is compelling evidence that some modifiable factors such as healthy lifestyle choices have long lasting effects on brain and cognition later in life. Further, studies show that some people may maintain cognitive function with Alzheimer's disease pathologies in their brains, while others show unexpectedly low burden of pathologies

Currently, we believe that some modifiable factors may act slowing Alzheimer's disease pathologies  while others may help maintain brain structure and function throughout life. We are studying these brain mechanisms in participants from the ALFA study using neuroimaging techniques, Alzheimer's disease biomarkers, cognitive and lifestyle evaluations.

The aim of the group is to establish prevention programs to stop or, at least, delay the occurrence of cognitive decline and dementia

Researchers and technicians

Müge Akinci
Predoctoral Researcher
Eider Arenaza-Urquijo
Marta Crous-Bou
Researcher, Neurologist
Oriol Grau
Clinical and Risk Factors for Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Group Leader
Blanca Rodríguez
Phd Student
Aleix Sala
Gonzalo Sánchez
Researcher and Neuropsychologist Coordinator