The National Institutes of Health has awarded $3.5 million to Indiana University social neuroscientist Anne Krendl and her team for their research on Alzheimer’s disease. IU says the funding will support the team’s research on the dynamic between the brain, social cognition, social networks and cognitive ability in an effort to develop new ways of slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Ultimately, IU says the research aims to uncover if “the social brain” can protect against the disease. Over the next five years in a series of three studies, the team will study social cognitive abilities such as the ability to remember faces and other information about people, and the part of the brain that supports them.
“Social neuroscientists like to say it’s ‘the social brain,'” Krendl said. “It would make a lot of sense that if we know this part of the brain is at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and we know it is involved in certain types of social functioning, that it might also play an important role in whether or not we can build resilience to Alzheimer’s.”
The university says the project builds on research by Krendl’s co-principal investigator and sociologist Brea Perry. The first and third parts of the study will bring 270 older adults to the Indiana Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the IU School of Medicine on the IUPUI campus and a lab in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences.
The second part of the study will use neuroimaging technology to look at the brain networks involved in social cognition. IU says the images will be used to determine “whether irregularities in the default mode network correspond to a diminishing social network and diminishing social cognitive skills.”
The research and results “will give us insight into how much of the cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s disease depends on social cognitive function, general cognitive function or both,” Krendl said.