Psychology professors to embark on new research study of Alzheimer’s disease

By Collegian News Staff

Two psychology professors at the University of Massachusetts are embarking on a medical study to “identify possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease,” said a press release issued by the UMass News Office.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association website,, Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that “destroys brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life.”

There is no current cure for Alzheimer’s, said the website. However the association said “there is an accelerating worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset or prevent it from developing.”

In their study psychology professors Rebecca Ready and Rebecca Spencer will look to “determine how genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease and the stress hormone, cortisol, might interact to cause very early changes in brain structure and memory that might, eventually, lead to Alzheimer’s disease,” according to the release.

Ready and Spencer will focus in particular on the hippocampus, a part of the brain which is “critical for new learning and memory.”

“Genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease may increase vulnerability for other insults to the brain, such as damage from stress hormones,” says Ready. “The current project will be one of the first to determine if and how genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease interacts with stress to impact brain structure and function in midlife.”

The professors are seeking adults, aged 45-65, who are biological children of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. The project will involve “questionnaires, cognitive testing, sampling of saliva to measure cortisol and brain imaging with MRI,” said the release.

Those interested in participating can contact the researchers at [email protected]

– Collegian Staff