Both of Andrew Kiselica’s grandfathers developed dementia when he was in graduate school. As Kiselica was going through neuropsychology training in graduate school, he saw his mother’s father become unable to walk or speak due to severe dementia. The University of Missouri researcher said that personal experience has motivated his work to identify and prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Now an assistant professor of health psychology, Kiselica recently finished a study that has resulted in procedures for defining the preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Since there are no current treatments to reverse the course of Alzheimer’s, this finding can help drug developers identify who could potentially benefit from a future Alzheimer’s treatment before symptoms of cognitive decline start to arise.
“Most families have had this experience of watching someone who is vibrant and full of life essentially turn into someone they can barely recognize,” said Kiselica, an assistant professor in the School of Health Professions. “I don’t want people to have to go through that as their last phase of life. The experience with my grandparents has been the driving force behind my desire to study this disease.”
Defined by cognitive changes that impact one’s ability to complete basic activities in daily life, dementia is most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder where a buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain leads to memory loss and other cognitive issues.
By looking at datasets from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center, Kiselica examined more than 400 individuals who had been declared “cognitively normal,” and particularly focused on 101 of these individuals who had a buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.