In the University of Wisconsin Hospital, part of an active state campus and medical school, a team of neuroscientists regard their human subjects as more than flesh and blood. Every detail of their lives is valuable to understand. Have they been sleeping well? Are they under stress? What’s new in their health and in their lives? The team’s principal investigator, Dr. Sterling Johnson, examines brain images from volunteers’ MRI and PET scans to spot the earliest evidence of change in the hippocampus; and for the appearance of amyloid plaque or neurofibrillary tangles. Dr. Cynthia Carlsson, whose determination was fused witnessing her own grandmother’s decline from Alzheimer’s, draws spinal fluid to inspect it for beta amyloid protein, tau, and other markers of the disease. She compares her findings with Dr. Johnson’s data from the MRI and PET scans. The study gathers and correlates statistics on blood pressure, cholesterol, heart function, insulin resistance, genetic risk factors, and – most importantly – cognitive function. Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo adds biological data from participants’ aerobic fitness tests as part of his new study to figure out the connection between exercise and brain health. These scientists have worked their way to their positions of inquiry, and now they mentor the next generation – including fellow Lindsay Clark and grad student hopeful Stephanie Schultz. Along with many esteemed colleagues, research nurses, lab technicians, data analysts, and students, the WRAP team documents the evidence, connects findings, and moves closer to a bigger picture.
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