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Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute, 15th Annual Alzheimer's Disease Update Conference


The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute, 15th Annual Alzheimer's Disease Update conference was held on November 2 and 3, 2017 at the Concourse Hotel in Madison, with a webcast of the November 3 event in UW Superior. The goal of the conference was to improve the diagnostic and therapeutic capability of healthcare providers who care for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.


The Update commensed on Thursday evening, November 2, with a program entitled Building Applied Skills in Dementia Care. Participants included 120 primary care physicians, psychologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers and other health professionals who diagnose, treat and manage Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Dr. Piero Antuono, Professor of Neurology and Biophysics and Director, Dementia Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, presented the latest information on Alzheimer's disease subtypes and the challenges in the differential diagnosis of non-Alzheimer's disease dementias. Dr. Antuono shared emerging evidence related to life styles prevention as well as management of advanced disease. Dr. Lindsay Clark, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin, provided participants with an overview of the assessment methods and neuropsychological impairments observed in Alzheimer's disease and other dementia syndromes. Dr. Clark discussed the challenges in differential diagnosis and factors that may influence cognitive test performance. The evening concluded with a presentation by Dr. Lisa Boyle, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Program Director, Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Boyle shared the approach for evaluation of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia and strategies to manage problem behaviors in dementia.


Friday's conference was attended by over 250 health care providers between the Madison site and the UW Superior webcast site. Dr. Jeffrey Gelfand, Assistant Professor of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, California, shared how to diagnosis and develop a diagnostic approach for patients with rapidly progressive dementia. Dr. Gelfand also shared how to identify clinical and imaging features that increase the likelihood of an “atypical” cause of dementia. Dr. Mary Sano, Associate Dean for Clinical Research, Professor of Psychiatry and Director, Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York and Director of Research, James J. Peters VAMC, Bronx, New York, provided participants with prominent research on treatments for Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and pathology and presented the latest science on prevention of dementia. Dr. David Carr, Alan A and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Clinical Director, Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science, Washington University at St. Louis and Medical Director, The Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis and Parc Provence, St. Louis, Missouri, presented the spectrum and impact of neurodegenerative disease on driving in older adults. Dr. Carr shared evidenced-based fitness to drive approaches in patients with dementia. Dr. Amy Kind, Associate Professor, Geriatrics, Director, Department of Medicine Health Services and Care Research Program, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and Associate Director, Clinical, Madison VA Geriatrics Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), William S. Middleton VA Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin, presented on the influence of neighborhood disadvantage on health, particularly for persons with dementia and shared tools for improving care transitions for dementia populations in low resource settings. Dr. Bruce Finke, Indian Health Service Elder Health Consultant, Acting Director, Office of Public Health, Nashville Area IHS and Senior Advisor, Learning and Diffusion Group, CMS Innovation Center, Nashville, Tennessee, shared cultural and health system factors in the development and delivery of services for individuals with dementia syndromes in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Dr. Finke also provided strategies to adapt language for communication about dementia syndromes in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Dr. Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, Professor of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, discussed barriers to inclusion in dementia care interventions for both the researcher and the participant. She also provided insite into the aging population and cultural diversity.


The conference also included a special presentation of recognition certificates to members of the WAI's Dementia Diagnostic Clinic Network, a network of over 30 clinics comprised of interdisciplinary teams of health care providers who provide dementia diagnostic services throughout Wisconsin that promote high-quality early diagnosis and treatment as well as support for caregivers.

The 16th Annual conference will be held on November 8 and 9, 2018 at the Madison Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. If you are interested in attending, please email Heidi Pophal at to be added to our brochure mailing list.



Congratulations Stephanie Houston, MBA - Recipient of the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter Network Professional Award

Awarded to an individual who brings to her/his employment a dedication that serves as a model to others in the field.


Stephanie Houston has served as an Outreach Specialist at the WAI in the Milwaukee Regional Office since 2009. In this role, Stephanie leads the service and comprehensive care components of WAI by providing short-term case management assistance to cognitively impaired and medically underserved African American older adults in Milwaukee County. Stephanie is a resource and a service link for minority elders and their families who need proper assessment and diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In addition, Stephanie is a member of the healthcare team at Milwaukee Health Services’ Dementia Diagnostic Clinic. She routinely meets with patients, families and informal caregivers within the clinic conducting interviews and sharing resources and information available in the area community. She is actively involved in research recruitment and retention of minority participants in UW sponsored Alzheimer’s disease research projects.


Stephanie manages caseloads and provides social work interventions to assure that clients' health, psychosocial, and socioeconomic needs are addressed. Going above and beyond, Stephanie has done emergency home visits and connects individuals and family caregivers to community resources for socialization and support.


Stephanie also leads the Amazing Grace Chorus, comprised of people with dementia and their caregivers. The Chorus is designed to improve the quality of life of participants through socialization and music while integrating the pillars of education and service. Stephanie is at Choir rehearsals every Saturday morning. When the group travels for performances, she arranges transportation, brings food, hauls supplies, and does whatever it takes to make the choir members comfortable in their surroundings. She works long hours making sure that the participants’ needs are met. Stephanie always goes a step or two beyond what is expected as a courtesy and not an obligation.


Stephanie advocates for and empowers clients and families to maintain a level of control over their health and wellness. She provides clients and families with educational materials and resources for support groups. She has the ability to educate and explain in lay terms what is happening in the brain when Alzheimer’s disease is present. Stephanie also leads and participates in a newly-developed lifestyle intervention program that focuses on community members at risk for dementia, and assists in leading the efforts of the PALS (Physical Activity for Life for Seniors) project in Milwaukee for African American seniors. Stephanie interacts compassionately when working with families living with dementia, making sure the client lives in a safe environment and that the caregiver(s) have the necessary resources for coping with the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease. Stephanie carries herself in a way that lets you know that she loves what she does.


Because of her dedication, Stephanie has earned the respect and gratitude of those for whom and with she serves. She loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her. Congratulations Stephanie!


Kimberly Mueller, MS CCC-SLP, receives her PhD

Kimberly Mueller is an Assistant Researcher in the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. She received a BA in Psychology from Rutgers University, a Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dr. Mueller’s research is focused on discovering how speech and language changes in normal aging, preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. Her work utilizes Computerized Language Analysis (CLAN), which is an automated means of tabulating language measures and is based on principles of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML). Her work features participants from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), a longitudinal cohort of over 1500 late-middle-aged adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.


Kimberly recently completed her dissertation and received her PhD.  Congratulations Kimberly!  Below is a summary of her work.


Signs of early cognitive decline in connected speech: Results from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP):


Detection of dementia at the earliest stages has become a worldwide priority because drug treatments and other interventions will likely be more effective very early in the disease process, before extensive brain damage has occurred. In this work, we investigated whether people with very early memory declines also show changes in their everyday speech. The study of speech is an easy, quick and inexpensive biological sample to collect, and producing speech involves the coordination of several motor and cognitive processes.


We found that subtle changes in everyday speech, such as the use of short sentences, more pronouns, and pauses like “um” and “ah,” correlated with a preclinical condition (early Mild Cognitive Impairment, or eMCI) which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.


In this study, we analyzed two speech samples, taken two years apart, from 264 participants in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), a longitudinal study group of people with a parental history of Alzheimer’s. Of these participants, 64 were identified as having very early memory declines (early, sub-clinical Mild Cognitive Impairment, “eMCI”) based on detailed cognitive testing over 8-10 years. The speech samples, averaging one minute long, were collected by asking the participants to describe a simple picture.


We found that those with early memory declines also declined faster on two measures of speech: content and fluency. The content of their speech was less specific, with a higher proportion of pronouns to nouns (e.g., “she,” “it,” “them”). Their fluency was more disrupted (word repetitions, filled pauses (“um,” “uh”), hesitations). Also, those with eMCI used less complex syntax and shorter sentences, and took more time to express the same amount of content as the cognitively healthy group, at one or both time points.


Our study is the largest prospective, longitudinal study of spontaneous speech samples in a study group of this kind. Our findings are similar to the retrospective study of Ronald Reagan’s unscripted speeches (Berisha et al., 2015), in which the authors found an increase in disrupted fluency and nonspecific language over time. Our findings also bear similarity to the Nun study, in which lower baseline grammatical complexity and idea density predicted later cognitive impairment.


We don’t know whether the eMCI group will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, so our next step is to repeat these analyses with participants who have other biomarker evidence, such as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles as seen on PET scans. We will also follow the progression of the original group throughout the study. Speech analysis may be a valuable biomarker to add to clinical assessments of cognitive function in the future.


Congratulations to Dr. Cindy Carlsson, Recipient of the Louis A. Holland, Sr., Professorship in Alzheimer's Disease

Cindy Carlsson, MD, MS, is the first recipient of the Louis A. Holland, Sr., Professorship in Alzheimer’s Disease at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, UW School of Medicine and Public Health. This Professorship was made possible by the generosity of the Louis (Lou) A. Holland, Jr., family.

This great distinction honors a remarkable individual, Louis (Lou) Holland, Sr., and exemplifies the passion and dedication of a family who has given a desperately-needed voice to Alzheimer’s. "It means everything to me to have Pop’s name associated with this amazing University, and to have this Professorship carry his legacy forward in our fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” says Lou Jr.

In the early 1960’s, Lou Sr. was a dynamic running back for the University of Wisconsin (UW) Badgers, and in 2011, this legend was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame. After college, Lou Sr., a hard-working farm boy from Racine, became a successful investment professional and a highly respected regular on the longrunning PBS program, Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser.

When diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Lou Sr. tackled the disease with the same tenacity that he exhibited in his athletic and professional careers. With his family close by his side, they committed to fight the disease together. Lou Sr. lost his battle to Alzheimer’s in early 2016, and the Holland family continues to inspire change in the face of this devastating disease.

Dr. Carlsson is the Associate Director, Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute and Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics. She is a board-certified internist and geriatrician with clinical expertise in dementia. Her clinical research focuses on early identification of Alzheimer’s disease through use of cerebrospinal fluid and neuroimaging biomarkers, and the role of vascular risk factors in the development of dementia. Dr. Carlsson’s overarching goal is to better understand how vascular risk factors contribute to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and how treating these vascular mechanisms may delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

“Dr. Carlsson is the consummate academic physician. Not only is she an internationally respected researcher, she is also an outstanding clinician, providing compassionate treatment to people with dementia and their families. Her leadership is invaluable as we strive to extend research findings into effective clinical practice across the state of Wisconsin and beyond,” says Jane Mahoney, Director of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Carlsson on this prestigious honor.



WRAP Biennial Information Sessions 2016

WRAP is funded by the National Institute of Health and is a premiere program seeking to understand the lifestyle and health factors that determine whether a person develops Alzheimer's disease. WRAP participants, a group of over 1,500 persons from the United States and beyond, recently attended an informational session hosted by WRAP investigators. Thank you to our participants! Because of you, we are making significant discoveries about Alzheimer's disease. Below are links to some of the presentations.

Welcome & Overview
Sterling Johnson, Ph.D., Principle Investigator of WRAP, Professor of Dementia and Geriatrics

Identifying Early Cognitive Changes in WRAP
Lindsay Clark, Ph.D., Holland Fellow in Neuropsychology and Neuroimaging


Physical Examination and Surgery Study
Lisa Bratzke, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Nursing


A Final Contribution: Donation to the Wisconsin Brain Donor Program
M. Shahriar Salamat, MD, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Forget Me Not

Garret Davis' National award-wining stage play is coming to Milwaukee! Please join us on Saturday, June 25, 2016 from 2 to 6pm at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts, Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI. Play is sponsored by the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute, The Alzheimer's Association, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and US Against Alzheimer's Network. To reserve your seat visit:


From the creators of some of the most compelling stories of our time comes yet another thought provoking production that is sure to educate as well as entertain as only a Gdavis Production can. The way Gdavis Productions takes on a disease like Alzheimer's has been called "brilliant".  Forget Me Not takes the audience into the life of a family facing this medical challenge and shows its impact on not just the immediate family but friends, marriage, and those in the community as well.


Many have left the theater realizing there are people close to them who may have signs pointing to Alzheimer's. Thanks to a panel of experts presented during the event, they leave equipped with answers to important questions about medical and social services that are available in their communities and learn how researchers are working to find ways to prevent and more effectively treat Alzheimer's- important work that requires each of us-- especially African Americans who are more likely to develop Alzheimer's than others-- to consider participating in clinical trials.    



WAI in the News

Hearing loss could pose greater risk of potential dementia in later life – study (7/17/17, the


New And Expanded Risk Factors For Cognitive Decline And Alzheimer's Disease (7/17/17,


Stress And Poverty May Explain High Rates Of Dementia In African-Americans (7/16/17, NPR)


Stressful life experience can 'age your brain', research suggests (7/17/17, yahoo news UK)


Stress of poverty, racism raise risk of Alzheimer’s for African Americans, new research suggests (7/17/17, Washington Post)


African Americans are the most at risk for developing Alzheimer's, study finds (7/17/17,


Study indicates link between poor sleep, increased risk of Alzheimer's (7/17/17,


Hearing loss, diminished verbal fluency and hospitalizations can signal cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, studies find (7/17/17, Washington Post)


Hearing is Believing: Speech May Be a Clue to Mental Decline (7/17/17 ABC news)


How Exercise May Protect the Brain from Alzheimer's Disease (6/26/17, TIME Magazine)


Alzheimer's Disease Study Links Brain Health and Physical Activity (6/21/17, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease)


In Memory of Lou: Alzheimer's disease looms for America's black and Hispanic families (OnWisconsin, Summer 2016 issue)


For those with dementia, a note of harmony and healing (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/25/2016)


What hurts black participation in Alzheimer's disease studies? History (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/19/2016)


1500 Points of Light (12/14/15)

An article about WRAP research particpiants' involvment in the Will I Be Next? documentary currently under production. Will I be Next is about the search for a cure to Alzheimer's disease.


Dr. Jane Mahoney to Head Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute (UW School of Medicine and Public Health, News and Events, 11/30/15)


Preserving Dignity for Loved Ones with Alzheimer's (UW Health, 11/18/15)


New UW Health Study: Possible link between Alzheimer's & High Blood Sugar (WKOW – Madison, WI, 8/11/15)

"People who have more insulin resistance, the brain does not use as much sugar," Lead Investigator, Dr. Barbara Bendlin, said of the study's findings.  150 participants in middle age with high blood sugar were tested. "I have been monitored for high blood sugar for a number of years now," 66-year-old Alice Sturzl, a WRAP, the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention, volunteers in studies like this.


Members of the Amazing Grace Chorus inspire audiences and each other: "If it wasn't for music, I wouldn't be here" (, 8/2/15)


High Blood Sugar May Boost Alzheimer's Risk (, 7/27/15)
"The findings are interesting because people with diabetes are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, but we are only now learning why they may be at increased risk," said lead researcher Barbara Bendlin, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


High Blood Sugar May Boost Alzheimer's Risk (, 7/27/15)
"The findings are interesting because people with diabetes are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, but we are only now learning why they may be at increased risk," said lead researcher Barbara Bendlin, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


High Blood Sugar May Boost Alzheimer's Risk (EHE & Me, 7/27/15)
"The findings are interesting because people with diabetes are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, but we are only now learning why they may be at increased risk," said lead researcher Barbara Bendlin, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Insulin resistance, glucose uptake in the brain in adults at risk for Alzheimer's (Medical Xpress, 7/27/15)
Willette and co-author Barbara Bendlin, with the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute, examined brain scans in 150 late middle-aged adults, who were at risk for Alzheimer's disease, but showed no sign of memory loss. The scans detected if people with higher levels of insulin resistance used less blood sugar in areas of the brain most susceptible to Alzheimer's. When that happens, the brain has less energy to relay information and function, Willette said.


Insulin resistance increases Alzheimer's risk in middle-aged adults (Healio, 7/27/15)
Barbara B. Bendlin, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and colleagues analyzed data from 150 adults aged 48 to 71 years (mean age, 61 years; 108 women; 103 with a parental history of Alzheimer’s disease) with normal cognition included in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention study, a community sample with a large percentage of participants with a parental history of Alzheimer’s disease.


Insulin Resistance May Prime the Brain for Alzheimer's Disease (, 7/27/15)
Lead author Dr. Barbara Bendlin, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, found an association between higher levels of insulin resistance and lower metabolism of glucose in several areas of the brain, including, importantly, in the left medial temporal lobe, where memories are made. People with lower glucose metabolism in that part of the brain performed worse on tests of immediate and delayed memory.


UW researchers break ground with Alzheimer’s study (Isthmus, 7/24/15)
Dr. Mark Sager traces the study back to an “ah-ha moment” he had in 2000 over a glass of wine with his wife. Sager, who until his recent retirement was professor of medicine at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, was telling his wife about the need for more Alzheimer’s research.


Wisconsin Life: Memory Choir (Wisconsin Public Radio, 7/13/15)
In today's Wisconsin Life we talk about the Amazing Grace Chorus, a Milwaukee choir whose members suffer from Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Host: Rob Ferrett Guest(s): Stephanie Houston Producer(s): Karl Christenson


Amazing Grace: A Choir For Sufferers Of Memory Loss (Wisconsin Life, 7/8/15)
The chorus began in 2014 as an outreach project of the Wisconsin Alzheimers Institute. The organization was contacted by Dr. Mary Mittelman, a researcher studying the positive effect of singing on mood in caregivers and people with memory issues in New York. The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute brought the program to Milwaukee. Besides the benefits of song, outreach specialist Stephanie Houston says they hope to reduce negative attitudes toward memory loss, particularly among African Americans.


Campus Big Data Project May Point the Way to Alzheimer's Early Detection (June 26, 2015)


Will I Be Next: A documentary film that will soon be released about the search for a cure to Alzheimer's disease through the eyes of WRAP participants.


Higher Education May Protect Against Alzheimer's Disease (UW Health News & Events, 5/26/15)


Amazing Grace: Singing in Chorus Helps Alzheimer's Patients (UW Health News & Events, 5/15/15)


More Evidence that Exercise Can Help Fight Alzheimer's Disease (Daily Herald, 12/23/14)


UW Joint Venture Provides Computer Tools to Mine Alzheimer's Data for Clues (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/22/14)


Helping People with Alzheimer’s Cope during Holiday Gatherings (UW Health News & Events, 12/19/14; covered by


Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute Chorus Presents Free Concert (Milwaukee Times, 12/18/14)


More Evidence that Exercise Can Help Fight Alzheimer's Disease (Washington Post, 12/16/14)


Conference Looks at Alzheimer's from Beyond the Brain (UW Health News & Events, 11/19/14)


UW Alzheimer’s study data gets boost with help from WEDC, Wi2


New UW Fund to Help Alzheimer's Research (


Man Travels Halfway Across Nation for UW Alzheimer's Study (


Alzheimer's Disease Could Be as Much About Lifestyle as Aging (WI State Journal, 4/20/14)


Alzheimer's Disease Could Be as Much About Lifestyle as Aging (LaCrosse Tribune, 4/22/14)


Genetics, Games, Stress: Findings from Alzheimer's Prevention Study (WI State Journal, 4/20/14)


Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute Awarded $1.5 Million Grant from the Helen Bader Foundation


WAI has been awarded a grant from the NIA to support WRAP, with high program relevance designation!


From NBC News: Faces of activists: 'This is an epidemic' (featuring WAI advocate Lou Holland, Jr.)


The Costs of Ignoring Alzheimer's Disease


Personal Experiences Inspire Alzheimer's Research


Early Alzheimer's Screenings Could Cut Health Care Costs


Increasing Your Brain Fitness to Counteract Alzheimer's Disease


Alzheimer's Update Newsletter

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