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McLean research

Geriatric Psychiatry Research Program

The Geriatric Psychiatry Research Program, founded in 2000, is dedicated to pursuing a better understanding of the relationship between brain function and behavioral symptoms in older adults, a key element in choosing the treatments that will improve their quality of life. Our clinician-scientists study the behavioral disturbances associated with dementia (now known as major neurocognitive disorder), one of the most important targets for research and new treatments. This is where psychiatry intersects with neurology and internal medicine.

Behavioral disturbances—for example, agitation, wandering, resistance to personal care, depression, and refusing to eat—are the most challenging obstacles to continued care in the home setting. Behavioral symptoms lead to caregiver stress and burnout and are highly associated with excess morbidity, mortality, and premature long-term care placement. McLean is a leader in treatment approaches that address these behavioral complications.

We are also exploring promising avenues to earlier diagnosis and expanded treatment options for older adults with neurocognitive disorders. These diagnostic options include the use of a PET imaging scan for people experiencing only mild memory complaints in order to detect the amyloid plaque, sticky abnormal protein, deposits in the brain which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Our treatment studies involve experimental medications delivered either orally or through intravenous infusion and provide an opportunity for individuals to have access to potentially disease-modifying experimental therapies that may alter the course of dementia progression.