Listen Live

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Alzheimer’s disease affects families across the country and of course, right here in Indiana. It can be a complicated and emotional time for families, and that’s why one Hoosier professor is dedicated to her study.

Dr. Kara Garcia is a brain development researcher at Indiana University. She and her team developed a tool to “track” the brain. The tool was originally meant for tracking brain growth in babies, but then Dr. Garcia had other ideas.

“In Alzheimer’s disease, we actually see physical shrinkage of the brain,” Dr. Garcia explains, “and at late stages of disease, we’re able to see pretty clearly some of those signs of critical shrinkage. Specially, we’re looking at the out layer of the brain – the cortex.”

Most people think of memory loss when they think about Alzheimer’s symptoms, but there are other kinds of Alzheimer’s symptoms which appear physically different when looking at the shrinkage of a brain. Those symptoms include difficulty with language and completing complicated tasks. With different symptoms comes the need for better information.

“What were really aiming to do is to detect this change, the more subtle changes, that happen at early stages of disease, as well as see exactly how that pattern of brain shrinkage looks different in individuals with different sets of symptoms,” says Dr. Garcia. She received a 150,00-dollar grant from the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s a grant typical awarded to researchers new to the field of Alzheimer’s research. Dr. Garcia is grateful for the money, and her team has a lot of goals in mind.

Dr. Garcia explains, “the goal of this grant is to dig a little deeper, and see if we can detect those changes earlier. As well as detect the differences between those individuals, based on the symptoms they have. I think one of the big goals of this work is to be able to understand, to help people understand, these different types of Alzheimer’s.”

She says ultimately, she hopes this information will help guide families and caretakers to better treatment plans and options for anyone they know who may be battling Alzheimer’s.