Announcing the 2018-2019 MADC Pilot Project Awardees

The MADC is proud to support innovative, high-impact research into new ideas about the causes and treatment of dementias through our Pilot Project Program. This program offers “kick-starter” research funding to younger investigators at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Health System so that they can begin testing their ideas.

We are pleased to announce the 2018-2019 Pilot Project Awardees:

“Characterization of faster onset of Alzheimer’s disease within mild cognitive impairment patients by brain functional connectivity and genetic variants”
Eunjee Lee, PhD (University of Michigan) and Chandra Sripada, PhD (University of Michigan)

Goal: To uncover multi-model brain functional connectivity/gene markers of shorter conversion time from MCI to AD by constructing advanced Bayesian low rank models.

Dr. Eunjee Lee is a Research Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan. Her research interests lie in developing statistical methods to explore biomedical data, such as brain imaging and genetic data. Her current work is focused on Bayesian methods for functional data analysis, matrix decomposition, and variable selection in high-dimensional settings.

Dr. Chandra Sripada is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan. His research examines agency, attention, and self-control from cross-disciplinary perspectives.

“Cortical Microstructural Changes in African-Americans with Alzheimer’s Disease”
Navid Seraji-Bozorgzad, MD (University of Michigan) and Rohit Marawar, MD (Wayne State University)

Goal: To examine the cortical microstructure as reflected by two novel MRI techniques, Neurite Orientation Dispersion and Density Imaging (NODDI) and Diffusion Kurtosis Imaging (DKI) in a cohort of African American and White patients with early Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Seraji-Bozorgzad is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan. The interaction of body and brain in disease state are of particular interest to him, both in terms of neurological manifestations of systemic disease, and effect of neurological disease on other systems. His research experience is in the field of MR imaging. He is interested in biomarkers of brain injury and repair, as it applies to various degenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Rohit Marawar is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Wayne State University. Dr. Marawar’s expertise and training is in the field of epilepsy. Recently, he transitioned his focus into hyperexcitable brain networks in cognitively normal and abnormal elderly – including those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Dr. Marawar contributed to the development of the Geriatric Epilepsy Clinic at Wayne State University-Detroit Medical Center.

“RNA binding protein sequestration in Non-Amyloid Dementia”
Peter Todd, MD, PhD (University of Michigan)

Goal: To leverage emerging technologies to identify novel repeat associated RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and then evaluate their roles in two common genetic forms of dementia: C9orf72-associated frontotemporal dementia (C9FTD) and fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS).

Dr. Peter Todd is the Bucky and Patti Harris Career Development Professor of Neurology and an Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan. His research explores the molecular mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases with a particular interest in repeat expansion diseases such as the recently discovered C9ORF72 expansion underlying frontotemporal dementia. Dr. Todd is also a staff neurologist at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center. He has worked in the field of Fragile X research for almost 20 years.

“Inflammation, social stress, and racial disparities in cognitive aging”
Laura Zahodne, PhD (University of Michigan)

Goal: To test the overarching hypothesis that racially-patterned social stress (discrimination) partially explains disparities in cognitive health through its effects on inflammation. In addition, this study will test whether associations among race, social stress, inflammation, and cognition differ according to socioeconomic status and quantify effects of examiner-examinee racial discordance on cognitive performance.

Dr. Laura Zahodne is a clinical neuropsychologist and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include psychosocial factors in aging and neurodegenerative disease, psychosocial factors and racial/ethnic diversity in cognitive aging, and statistical modeling of symptom trajectories in aging and neurodegenerative disease.


We look forward to seeing how this important research progresses in the coming year.