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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Johns Hopkins: Researchers Awarded $3.67 Million Grant from the National Institute on Aging to Study Sensory and Motor Functioning as Predictors of Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Jennifer Schrack, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, recently received a $3.67 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Schrack is teaming with Drs. Frank Lin and Yuri Agrawal from the department of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery – in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to study the associations among measures of sensory impairment, gait speed and variability, physical activity and measures of cognitive health to evaluate whether sensory and motor functioning may act as early markers of the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The potential findings may help identify targets for future interventions to prevent or slow Alzheimer’s progression.

Sensory impairments, gait abnormalities and cognitive impairment often coexist in older adults, with recent evidence indicating changes in sensory-motor function may precede the onset of mild cognitive impairment by up to 10 years. Previous studies by this research group have identified different aspects of sensory and motor functioning as key markers of cognitive decline, but their ability to predict preclinical Alzheimer’s — as independent and combined markers — is unknown.

Dr. Schrack’s research focus is on the role of physiological factors in maintaining mobility and functional independence with aging. This includes evaluating assessments of laboratory measures of energy expenditure and physical function, as well as physical activity, using wearable accelerometers to understand their contributions to physical and cognitive decline with aging.