a battle for the brain that begins with the heart
Three women at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease offer their brains and bodies to a medical study. After losing their mothers to the disease, these daughters are determined to contribute to the search for a cure. Meanwhile, they anxiously watch for signs of the disease in their own brains.
This independent documentary, filmed over five years, intimately shows what happens when human test subjects – who are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease – offer their blood, brains, and hearts to conquer it.
Since Dr. Mark Sager took the initiative in 2001, medical research scientists at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute have been on a mission – to figure out how to prevent, and eventually cure, Alzheimer’s disease.
Their method is to track the characteristics and habits of people at high risk for the disease, and to observe them in biological detail as they age. Some convert to Alzheimer’s disease and some do not. Why?
After humble beginnings, the study—the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP) —is now recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a high-priority research site.
At the heart of the Alzheimer’s study are the test group participants – middle-aged adults with a deceased or living parent with Alzheimer’s disease. Parental history makes the test group 2.5x more likely to get the disease than those without a history of it in their families.
The human research subjects are followed by the scientists for a minimum of 15 to 20 years and undergo periodic and rigorous cognitive tests.
The test group also shares one of life’s most difficult trials – a parent’s decline from Alzheimer’s disease.
This is a story about the fight to stop Alzheimer’s disease as told by the people with the most on the line.
Barb, Karen and Sigrid also return every two to three years to undergo the signature experience – a multidisciplinary oral cognitive test. This battery of questions looks for problems with their memory that signal their worst fear—the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
By combining clinical, brain imaging, biomarker information and physical fitness data, scientists are in pursuit of both the causes of the disease and what lifestyle practices may help delay the onset. It’s a race against time, but thus far, Alzheimer’s has been the victor.
As the researchers compile data from 1,500 participants over the first period of the study, a narrative begins to emerge.
How soon will an answer be found?
Can it be found in time?
PRODUCER/SOUNDTherese Barry-Tanner has been a participant in the WRAP study for more than fifteen years. Therese understands Alzheimer’s disease at an intimate level. She assisted her father in caring for her mother with the disease. Later she advocated for her mother fiercely at a nursing home —her mother was unable to speak for herself. Therese lost her mother to Alzheimer’s disease in November of 2008. DETERMINED began as Therese’s idea in 2011. Therese hopes that DETERMINED will bring the audience through the emotional journey and difficult decisions that are made when a loved one lives with or dies from Alzheimer’s disease. She also hopes the film will share the experience of being a human research subject, and that it will offer an inside look at the people who are working to find a cure. Prior to producing, Therese worked in healthcare, with over 30 years in program and project management, most recently specializing in healthcare reform and physician quality assurance at a Fortune 500 company.
The Center for Independent Documentary (CID) collaborates with independent filmmakers to create documentaries on issues of contemporary social and cultural concern. CID is the fiscal sponsor of DETERMINED and manages the project funds through their 501(c)(3). They bring expertise in fundraising, production, and distribution. Recent CID projects include the Netflix-Higher Ground Productions acquisition Crip Camp by Jim LeBrecht & Nicole Newnham, Dawnland by Adam Mazo & Ben Pender-Cudlip, Nancy Kates’ Regarding Susan Sontag (HBO), and Cheryl Furjanic’s Back on Board: Greg Louganis. Founded in 1981, CID’s programs have screened at major festivals, aired nationally and locally on public and cable television, and earned numerous awards.
The Greater Wisconsin Chapter aided in securing initial funding for DETERMINED, which was instrumental to making the project a reality. It is one of over 70 Alzheimer’s Association chapters across the United States and shares the organization’s mission: “To eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.”
DIRECTOR | CINEMATOGRAPHER | EDITOR
SCORE & SOUND DESIGN
Jaime Meyers Schlenck
DEVELOPMENT CONSULTING EDITOR
ADDITIONAL CAMERA & LIGHTING
POST PRODUCTION FACILITY
Goldcrest Post NY
Jordan Thompson De-Son
MOTION GRAPHICS EDITOR
ADDITIONAL SOUND EDITING
The Camera Department, Cincinnati
North American Camera, Milwaukee
CBS News Archives
National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health
Very Special Thanks
Jerry and Helen Paul, who inspired the film
Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, UW Health University Hospital-Madison, & Waisman Center Staff
Community Advisory Board
Amazing Grace Chorus ®
Aging and Disability Resource Center of Brown County
American Association of University Women, Green Bay
Brown Deer Lanes
Clinical Research Unit, UW Hospital Nursing Staff
International Neuropsychological Society
KTQ Labs: Feedback Screenings Program
Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease
League of Women Voters, Green Bay
Nova High School, Milwaukee
Roseville, MN Alzheimer’s Dementia Community Action Team
Spooner Funeral Home
UW Health University Hospital-Madison
Waisman Center University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute
Saied & Miriam Assef
Claudia Ruiz DeCoursey
Russ & Patricia Faust
Phil & Kitty Hauck
Lou Holland Jr.
Brigid Home Nestor & Terry Nestor
Lori La Bey
John and Susan McFadden
Chris & Susan Murphy
Laura & Ben Weiland
Michele & Greg Young
Don’t feel powerless against Alzheimer’s disease — join a clinical trial!
It’s easy to find a trial near you, or one where you can participate online, with minimal time commitment.
Just click on the link and enter your ZIP code to get started.
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