Penn Memory Center News

Join us at the year’s final Memory Café

The Memory Café returns Wednesday, December 21, 2016 with special guest Svitanya, a women’s vocal ensemble whose mission is to bring the beautiful folk music of Eastern Europe to a wide range of audiences.

The group’s repertoire, performed a cappella or with traditional instruments, draws upon a variety of regional traditions. While certain songs are strong field-working tunes, others are more rhythmic dance songs, all invoking harmonies indigenous to the region.

Memory Café is held 10:30 a.m. to noon monthly at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street, Philadelphia. To RSVP, contact Kelsey Fleming at 215-360-0274 or

Improv actors prepare for final performance

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 4.16.02 PM

A Penn Memory Center improv comedy workshop is setting the stage for a public performance Dec. 17

Improv Your Memory, formerly Cognitive Comedy, invites you to the final show at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Ralston Center, 3615 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

Cognitive Comedy was founded earlier this year by Leah Lawler, a local comedian who leads the program. This is the second series of workshops Lawler’s held.

The unique program invites Penn Memory Center patients and caregivers to learn the details of long-form comedy improv, “organically occurring scenes based off a one-word suggestion,” Lawler said. After eight class sessions, the public performance is the program’s culminating event.

Click here to learn more about Improv Your Mind.

PMC, CHOP seeking volunteers to work with kids


The Penn Memory Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) are teaming up for a program that pairs volunteers with CHOP patients and other children in the community.

Volunteers will work with children on a range of activities including reading, creating art, engaging with music, and playing with children of a variety of ages.

This program is being piloted at the South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center, which is located at 1700 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA. This is the home of the CHOP Care Network (South Philadelphia), The Philadelphia Free Library, and the DiSilvestro Recreation Center.

Volunteers must be able to volunteer for at least 90 minutes once a week, provide immunization records (MMR, Varicella, Tdap, Influenza, and PPD/TB), obtain Child Safety Clearances (provided and paid for by CHOP), and attend a short CHOP Volunteer Orientation and training session.

For more information, please contact Megan Fucci at (215) 614-7612 or

In Search of our Keepers: An Intergenerational Discussion of Community Experience



Join your neighbors Dec. 11 for a free, intergenerational discussion about and with the West Philadelphia community’s “keepers” of experiences.

“In Search of our Keepers” will include performances from Philadelphia spoken word artists and actors, including a play written by University of Pennsylvania student Tahir Bell. The event will focus on the community’s collective experiences and how one generation can share stories with another. Food is provided, and all are welcome.

Date: December 11
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Place: The Rotunda at 4014 Walnut St., Philadelphia, Pa.

To RSVP, contact the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance at or (215) 747-4675.

Karlawish tapped for PA Long-Term Care Council



Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish has been appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf to serve on Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council, Wolf’s office announced Tuesday.

The 35-member council will make recommendations to improve the commonwealth’s long-term services and supports system with respect to regulations, licensure, and financing appropriate departments and agencies. (more…)

More human-like model of Alzheimer’s better mirrors tangles in the brain


Tangled up brain fibrils made up of a rogue protein known as tau are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that likely hold the key to treatments, making them of great interest to researchers. Mimicking the formation and spread of these tangles in animal models with greater accuracy allows scientists to better investigate new therapies to stop or slow their spread. (more…)

Social worker Alison Lynn added to PMC team

socialworkintern2Former Penn Memory Center intern Alison Lynn has joined the team as a full-time social worker.

As assistant director of care programs, Lynn will assist Felicia Greenfield, director of clinical research operations and care programs, in all aspects of psychosocial support including but not limited to patient and caregiver education and counseling, caregiver classes, support groups, Memory Cafés and other PMC programs, and supervision of social work interns.

Lynn will also coordinate The NACC Study, specifically with participant recruitment, scheduling, and assessments.

“I’m delighted that Alison accepted the offer,” Greenfield said. “She possesses keen clinical and excellent coordination skills that make her an ideal fit for this role.”

Project Home: Bringing free classical music to the PMC community

Violist Rimbo Wong knows the stereotype — that classical music is for an exclusive audience — but, working with the Penn Memory Center, she hopes to shatter it.

The ArtistYear fellow from the Curtis Institute of Music is spending a year in service to the Philadelphia community with what she calls “Project Home.” She will bring classical music into the homes of Penn Memory Center patients who have Alzheimer’s disease or other types of cognitive impairments.

ArtistYear Fellow Rimbo Wong from Penn Memory Center on Vimeo.


Ahead of next new Alzheimer’s treatment, looking to history to temper expectations

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Forbes File)


Joe Freshman is 14 years old and has never known a new Alzheimer’s disease (AD) treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Study leaders hope that he’ll see one before returning from winter break, but one Penn Memory Center researcher cautions that a new FDA-approved drug alone isn’t necessarily “the answer to our prayers.”

Pharmaceutical company Lilly is testing the drug Solanezumab, designed to target amyloid, which physicians and researchers think is at least partially responsible for AD. Results of this study will be released by the end of 2016, and if the results indicate that this drug helps patients, “Alzheimer’s doctors will have a new drug to prescribe and also a new way to talk about the disease,” PMC Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish wrote in his latest Forbes column.

“When this happens, Alzheimer’s disease will gain a business model. Thought leaders will assemble, advertisements will flourish, and the media will start spreading the news: We finally have a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” Karlawish wrote.

But Solanezumab is not the first drug to ignite excitement in the field of Alzheimer’s disease medicine. Karlawish explains how the the cholinergic hypothesis about Alzheimer’s fueled interest in acetylcholinesterase inhibitor drugs in the 1990s. Many people at the time believed that neurological disorders could be treated through modulation of neurotransmitters at the synaptic level. 

He references an essay that argues amyloid isn’t the whole story when it comes to AD.

“Amyloid isn’t Alzheimer’s disease in the same way that the poliovirus is polio, and so we shouldn’t expect that a drug such as sola is the answer to our prayers,” Karlawish wrote. “The history of the cholinergic hypothesis shows, however, that not only science but belief influences medical practice.”

Further, Karlawish argues that studies must follow a large number of subjects for years to measure the true impact of new drugs.

“Without these kinds of studies, the public won’t know the value of what they’re buying and taking,” he wrote.

Read the complete column at

— by Darby Marx

AlzForum launches interactive timeline of Alzheimer’s disease



Alzforum, launched in 1996 to foster communication about Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a new interactive timeline.

The detailed history of Alzheimer’s research stretches back to 1906, when Alois Alzheimer made a public presentation on his patient, Auguste Deter. His findings launched the investigation of a complex disease that has been under scientific scrutiny for more than a century.

The timeline is an interactive map of the twists and turns of Alzheimer’s research. Alzforum highlighted the events and images that remain relevant today. The poster version shows how the research of Alzheimer’s has grown from one single patient’s case to an expansive, multi-national research effort. The timeline includes 271 hallmark events.

To see the online version of the timeline and the poster presentation, please visit:

Task force, PMC jointly tackle elder abuse

Speakers, including Dr. Jason Karlawish (top left) Joe Snyder (top right), and Emily Cardin (center front), at World Elder Abuse Awareness Day June 15, 2016.
Speakers, including Dr. Jason Karlawish (top left) Joe Snyder (top right), and Emily Cardin (center front), at World Elder Abuse Awareness Day June 15, 2016.

Emily Cardin was suspicious the moment she first learned about “Richard.”

Her mother thought he was “The One.” The wealthy British businessman from was deeply religious, courteous, and gentlemanly. He also promised that he could care for her, financially, after his trip to Africa. It didn’t sit well with Cardin, who warned her mother that it could be a scam.

Despite Cardin’s warnings, her mother sent more than $60,000 to Richard for his hospital bills. But Richard wasn’t in the hospital, nor was he on vacation. He was nothing more than a character invented by a group of Nigerian scam artists.


Penn Medicine cares for local community through CAREs grant

Penn Medicine, while acting upon its mission to work with the Philadelphia community, provides annual grants to staff, physicians, and medical students to support their community service programs. Past programs have helped students purchase textbooks, receive SAT and college readiness tutoring, and provide outpatient care those people who would not have seen a clinician without the efforts of the Penn Medicine CAREs grant.


Ethical questions arise when Alzheimer’s patients enter the voting booth

Rob Moir, 77, and his wife Margaret Rice Moir, 67, at their home in Brewster, Mass. Rob is two years into an Alzheimer's diagnosis, and his wife helped him navigate the voting process this year. Photo: MATTHEW ORR/STAT
Rob Moir, 77, and his wife Margaret Rice Moir, 67, at their home in Brewster, Mass. Rob is two years into an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and his wife helped him navigate the voting process this year. Photo: MATTHEW ORR/STAT


Voting is a an essential right that challenges millions of Americans who have dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

For adults living with Alzheimer’s disease, voting is not a legal issue, since states allow helpers into the voting booth. There is an ethical dilemma at play, however: Can this population of voters understand the decisions they are making? There is also a debate among experts as to whether people with dementia can make the deeply personal decision on their own.

“The civil rights of people with dementia are very much in the hands of other people” — namely their nursing staff or family members who may not have the proper training to help ensure that the person voting is exercising their own opinion, Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center and thought leader on ethical issues in Alzheimer’s disease, told

Click here to read more about the story of one committed voter and his fight against dementia.

— By David Ney

Alzheimer’s disease experts propose improvements to the nation’s plan to prevent Alzheimer’s disease



The first goal of the U.S. national Alzheimer’s plan is that, by 2025, researchers will discover ways to diagnose and treat patients before they have problems performing daily tasks like driving and managing finances, but the plan lacks a strategy to determine whether these treatments provide “meaningful clinical benefit,” two leading researchers argue in a recently published essay.


Lyon ‘a hero’ for publicly discussing Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Bill Lyon, right, meets with his doctor, Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish.


Legendary local sportswriter Bill Lyon has a long list of titles — journalist, columnist emeritus, Pulitzer Prize nominee — and now he can add one more: hero.

The new resume bullet point was given by Dr. Jason Karlawish during a live interview on WHYY’s Radio Times October 4.

“Bill Lyon is a hero, and he’s a hero because he has the courage to talk publicly about having Alzheimer’s disease,” Karlawish said. “He’s educating and empowering the nation to be able to talk about this disease and face it.”


Forged by Cold War fears, health care system ignores needs of aging adults



The American health care system is out of date and only recently has taken on a national goal to improve the care of older adults, according to a leading researcher.

Speaking during a live interview as part of The Atlantic’s “The New Old Age,” Penn Memory Center Co-Director Jason Karlawish said that older adults are “the last casualties of the Cold War.”


Studying how to disclose Alzheimer’s disease risk



As more Alzheimer’s disease (AD) prevention trials require participants to undergo genetic or biomarker testing in order to enroll, researchers must address how to disclose the results of tests that foreshadow whether a healthy person may develop AD dementia.

At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) held July 22-28 in Toronto, researchers and clinicians discussed how to approach these difficult conversations.

“Understanding how people react to these test results is as important as understanding their response to a drug,” Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, told Alzforum. “The future practice will be ‘get a test, get a drug,’ and we need to understand the combined impact of both of those interventions.”


Join us Oct. 7 for Cognitive Comedy at Memory Café


The Memory Café returns Friday, October 7, 2016 with local comedian Leah Lawler, who will conduct some long-form improv comedy lessons to participants. Make new friends, learn the tenets of improv, do some scene work, and improve listening, word association and mood along the way. Get out of your own head and experience “group mind.”

Lawler organizes Penn Memory Center’s Cognitive Comedy program, which began its second season September 17.

The Memory Café occurs monthly in an air-conditioned space at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City. This program is exclusively for people with memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, and their partners/families. Please RSVP by contacting Alison Lynn at

Karlawish: How Technology Will Take Care of My Aging Brain



When Dr. Jason Karlawish turned 50 last month, he celebrated with some of his staff over a vanilla cake and a custom birthday card at what was scheduled on his calendar as a lab meeting.

“Age is just a number,” one staff member offered between bites.

On the contrary, said Karlawish, without a hint of pessimism. An adult’s brain has reached “maximum cognitive abilities” at age 50, and he needed to plan for his future.

That developing plan was the topic of his latest Forbes column, published this week.

“I’m scheduled for my first screening colonoscopy and cholesterol tests, but the healthcare system has little in place for me to check up on my brain or interventions to keep it healthy. This may change. The U.S. national Alzheimer’s plan has an ambitious goal to prevent Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Screening brain scans and pills that slow down cognitive decline will help, but we’re not going to test and drug our way out of experiencing any cognitive changes with aging. There are simply too many pathologies at work and too many ways to age a neuron. That is what growing older is.”

Karlawish noted in the column that new technologies in health care, transportation, and financial management can help prevent some of the “high-octane dramas” that come with aging as long as people are willing to surrender some of their autonomy.

Read the complete column on


Memory Café: A ‘safe’ place to socialize

Kevin Schott, educational programs manager at the Penn Museum, describes the significance of various artifacts for Concetta and Betty Mitchell.


At a recent event at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, a group of people sat around four tables, each with Egyptian artifacts as its centerpiece. Museum educators went from table to table explaining – in a highly entertaining fashion – what each artifact signified in ancient times.

What was unique about this “class” was not the topic or the location. It was the audience: members of the Memory Café, a program created by the Penn Memory Center (PMC) exclusively for patients with memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, and their caregivers.


Most powerful tool in Alzheimer’s doctor’s kit: ‘What’s a typical day?’



Take a peek around the Penn Memory Center, and you’ll see room after room filled with vital technology.

Over here, a multi-million-dollar MRI provides an incredibly detailed look at a living human brain. Over there, a pristine lab evaluates spinal fluid, providing researchers with invaluable data.

But in a small clinical evaluation room, an Alzheimer’s doctor faces his new patient and deploys the most powerful technology at his disposal:

“What’s a typical day?”


NAPSA honors Karlawish with elder protection award

Dr. Jason Karlawish, Penn Memory Center Co-Director, testifies to the Elder Justice Coordinating Council Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Screenshot of livestream.)
Dr. Jason Karlawish, Penn Memory Center Co-Director, testifies before the Elder Justice Coordinating Council Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Screenshot of livestream.)


Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish is the 2016 recipient of the Rosalie S. Wolf Memorial Award, given to a researcher or someone involved in research “in recognition of a significant contribution to the knowledge and development in the fields of abuse of elders or persons with disabilities or Adult Protective Services.”

The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) Conference Awards Committee selected Karlawish for his “extraordinary” contributions to the field.


Penn Alzheimer’s Disease Center to receive $8.8 million in NIH funding

A panel of (from left) Felicia Greenfield, Dr. Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton, Dr. David Wolk and Dr. John Trojanowski, listen to an attendee's question at the 2015 Research Partner Thank You Breakfast.
A panel of (from left) Felicia Greenfield, Dr. Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton, Dr. David Wolk and Dr. John Trojanowski, listen to an attendee’s question at the 2015 Research Partner Thank You Breakfast.


The University of Pennsylvania’s Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center (ADCC) has been awarded an estimated $8.8 million over five years from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to continue its mission of investigating mechanisms, diagnostics, treatments and strategies for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and related dementias including Parkinson’s disease (PD), Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD), Lewy Body dementia (LBD) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).

Discoveries from Penn’s ADCC have advanced understanding of the development and progression of AD and related neurodegenerative dementias over the past 25 years, leading to national and international recognition of its research accomplishments.


Alzheimer’s patients: the Cold War’s last casualties

A pen used by former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign Medicare into law is seen with another during a press preview at the National Archives on March 18, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)


The post-WWII era known as the Cold War had tens of thousands of casualties between conflicts in Korea and Germany. But decades after “tear down this wall,” Cold War casualties are still being created daily out of adults with dementia and their caregivers, said Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish.

“They’re casualties because the healthcare system fails to deliver the care they need,” Karlawish wrote in a Forbes column. “Few physicians are trained in geriatrics and even fewer as Alzheimer’s doctors. Older adults with cognitive complaints are typically consigned to a hasty diagnosis and even when they receive a diagnosis, they find minimal guidance on how to live with the disease.

“Many patients don’t even receive a diagnosis. They come to my memory center taking the mildly effective Alzheimer’s drugs and asking whether they have Alzheimer’s, or it is dementia, or just aging, and what’s the difference between them? Their experiences kindle fear and even suspicion about the healthcare system, feelings reinforced when they go out into the world and experience their autonomy under siege. Assessments of their capacity to make life’s important decisions are reduced to a single score on a simple test of cognition. And the system expects them to pay the majority of the costs of their care.”


Penn Memory Center welcomes new neuropsychology trainees

From left: Emma Rhodes, Kayci Vickers, Kara Rudisill, and Shalom Shapiro

The Penn Memory Center is pleased to welcome new neuropsychology trainees to the team for the 2016-2017 academic year. Shalom Shapiro, Emma Rhodes, Kayci Vickers, and Kara Rudisill started with PMC in July and will be training with Dr. Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton this year in neuropsychological assessment and intervention.


Philadelphia Phillies to honor Bill Lyon with first pitch at Alzheimer’s Association Night

Bill Lyon, right, meets with his doctor, Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish.


After decades of Bill Lyon sharing his gift with the Philadelphia sports community, he’ll be thanked Wednesday evening in the middle of the Phillies infield.

The “sportswriter emeritus” will throw the ceremonial first pitch of Alzheimer’s Association Night at Citizen’s Bank Park.


Penn public health program names Karlawish Senior Fellow

Dr. Jason Karlawish, Penn Memory Center Co-Director, testifies to the Elder Justice Coordinating Council Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Screenshot of livestream.)
Dr. Jason Karlawish, Penn Memory Center Co-Director, testifies to the Elder Justice Coordinating Council Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Screenshot of livestream.)


Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, has been named a Senior Fellow by the Penn Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI).

The CPHI mission is “to educate and train public health leaders and practitioners, foster multi-disciplinary collaboration, and promote excellence in public health research and community partnerships.” CPHI, currently under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Pinto-Martin, was founded in 2007.

As part of Karlawish’s three-year appointment, he will teach or guest lecture Master of Public Health (MPH) courses and mentor MPH students, in addition to participating in CPHI symposia and events.

Karlawish joins council protecting senior investors




Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director the Penn Memory Center and founder of the concept of “whealthcare” for older adults, will join an international council protecting senior investors.

The Advisory Council to the Seniors and Diminished Capacity Committee of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASSA) invited Karlawish to join in July. One of the top priorities of the committee — comprised of experts in the fields of government, business, senior advocacy, law, medicine, and academia — is to protect senior investors.

“It is our goal to fully consider and develop tools for use by regulators, industry, and investors to better protect senior investors and individuals suffering from diminished capacity,” NASAA President Judith Shaw and Committee Chair Lynne Egan wrote in a statement. “[Karlawish’s] participation in the Advisory Council is a significant step towards that goal.”


Now Enrolling: Fall 2016 Caregiving Class


The Penn Memory Center is now enrolling for its fall session of its psycho-educational Caregiver Class for those caring for a family member or other loved one with dementia. And, for the first time, a separate class will be offered exclusively for those caring for a spouse.

Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia may experience feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, hopelessness, or frustration. This course is designed help caregivers develop skills to better help their loved one – and themselves – cope with the many changes of living with dementia.


Memory Café at the Penn Museum (8/10/16)


Warning: This event is at capacity. Any future RSVPs will be placed on a waiting list.

Please join us for a special Memory Café night at the Penn Museum.

At this free event, friends of the Penn Memory Center are invited to socialize and handle touchable artifacts from the museum and join a gallery tour. The evening will conclude with the sounds of Afro-Cuban and West African drumming by Leana Song.

Time: 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Place: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

RSVP: Please RSVP by August 8, 2016 to Alison Lynn at or 215-360-0257.

Parking: Parking is limited, but attendees may try to park in Lot 7 adjoining the museum for $21. Public transportation is encouraged if possible.

In PMC class, caregivers learn to care for themselves first



Mary Ellen McNish spent more than a decade “yelling constantly” at her husband, whose cognitive impairment drove her to “my wit’s end.”

“He went from being a Ph.D. economist to having difficulty figuring things out. It’s been a loss of inches,” she told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

But then she discovered the Penn Memory Center’s six-week psycho-educational class for people caring for loved ones with dementia.


Cellist Arlen Hlusko to headline August Memory Café

Arlen Hlusko performs at the 2015 Penn Memory Center Research Partner Thank You Breakfast.


Cellist Arlen Hlusko, a graduate of Curtis Institute and recent apprentice with the New York Philharmonic, will be performing at Penn Memory Center’s (PMC) monthly Memory Café August 5.

This program, held from 10:30 a.m. to noon each month at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City, is exclusively for people with memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, and their partners/families. Please RSVP by contacting Alison Lynn at


Free fitness classes offered for older adults



Adults ages 65 and up are invited to join in free fitness classes at Penn Medicine.

Stay Active & Independent for Life (SAIL) is a a strength, balance, and fitness class that will meet twice a week for eight weeks beginning August 30.

Classes are taught by an occupational therapist and designed to adapt for all levels of physical ability.

Organizers promise that you’ll be stronger, have better balance, and feel better.

Time: 6 to 7 p.m.
Dates: Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning August 30
Place: 1800 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, Pa.
Details: Quick cognitive phone screen; registration paperwork and a physician release are required for enrollment.
RSVP: Joseph Muniak, MS, OTR/L | 215-893-6579 |

Video: Dr. Wolk reviews NACC study at new event


Clinicians studying Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are advancing to the next stage of research, but they need the help of volunteer participants.

New technology has allowed sites like the Penn Memory Center (PMC) to take a more detailed look at the brains of living research participants, and studies are adapting to collect more of that data.

“Imaging in this day and age is one of the most useful things for how to follow what’s going on in a living person’s brain,” said Dr. David Wolk, PMC co-director.


PMC says goodbye to neuropsychology trainees, intern

A very heartfelt thank you to the neuropsychology practicum trainees and intern who worked with us over the past year. Megan Glenn, Kate Devlin, Kathy Breslin and Amanda NeMoyer dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort to their work, providing testing services, co-facilitating the Cognitive Fitness Program, and collaborating on research projects.


Legendary sportswriter documents life battling ‘Al’

Bill Lyon, right, is joined by Dr. Jason Karlawish at the Penn Memory Center
Bill Lyon, right, is joined by Dr. Jason Karlawish at the Penn Memory Center. Credit: Clem Murray/

In the world of sports journalism, Bill Lyon is a legend.

In more than 40 years in the Philadelphia region, working for The Philadelphia Inquirer, he has covered the biggest moments in sports: the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Olympics. He has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize six times.

Yet through decades of watching elite athletes square off, Lyon has never covered a battle quite like his own. (more…)

Local ballet performance inspired by, honors late Penn Memory Center research participant



Philadelphia’s premier contemporary ballet is set to honor late Penn Memory Center research participant Toni Hamilton with a performance inspired by her writing.

Beginning Wednesday, July 6, BalletX will hold its two-week Summer Series 2016 at The Wilma Theater, featuring choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Matthew Neenan, with virtual art shop Klip Collective.


Starting the conversation about Alzheimer’s Disease

vaishnavi-sanjeevThe longer a patient with a neurodegenerative disease goes undiagnosed and untreated, the less likely it is that treatment will be effective, a Penn Memory Center neurologist told Penn Medicine.

“Early detection and diagnosis result in the ability to get patients started with early interventions,” said Dr. Sanjeev Vaishnavi, an assistant professor of Neurology. “Medications can result in an initial stabilization in memory and functional impairment, especially when used early in the course of the disease.”

For that to take place, someone — be it the patient or a loved one — needs to begin a difficult conversation.

“This is certainly not an easy conversation to start,” Vaishnavi said. “People are scared of the words dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s rare that a person hasn’t seen the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s on someone else. They don’t want to think about themselves in that position. People are afraid they will be labeled as ‘no longer smart.’ People are concerned that they might lose their job, or become a burden on their loved ones, or that someone may become unrecognizable to them.”

Read the complete article on

Picture This: “What’s a Typical Day” project presentation

Tigist Hailu, Penn Memory Center coordinator for diversity in research and education, presented her photo elicitation project on living with mild cognitive impairment at today’s Penn Institute on Aging Retreat.

Learn more about “What’s a Typical Day” here.

20160608_150709 (more…)

Using whealthcare to prevent fraud, increase wealth, promote cognitive health

Credit: Philip Marshall


Claire Jones was enjoying a comfortable retirement after years working as a bookkeeper and keeping a close eye on her own personal savings. But just a few months after “winning the lottery,” she had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It was a scam that, in her younger years, Ms. Jones would have sniffed out immediately. But as she aged, changes to her fluid intelligence and social and emotional processing turned her into a perfect target for scam artists.

Stories of financial fraud with elder victims are common, though many cases are preventable. Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, outlined a plan he calls “whealthcare” in his latest Forbes column.


Memory Café grant will fund guest artists, improved café environment

Memory Café, a monthly pop-up café for Penn Memory Center patients and their caregivers, has secured six months of funding from Christ Church Neighborhood House.

With the grant, the Penn Memory Center will be able to invite local artists to each month’s café. Upcoming performances include cellist and Curtis Institute alumna Arlen Hlusko and Theatre of Witness creator Teya Sepinuck.

Additionally, guests will have an improved “café experience” through a set of new café tables and entertainment options such as adult coloring books, said Christ Church Neighborhood House Program Director Abigail Guay. A wider selection of coffee and snacks — previously donated from Kitchen Gia — will be purchased from a variety of local vendors.


‘Great promise’ in Alzheimer’s research, but ‘we’re not there yet’

Scientifically, great progress has been made in understanding how Alzheimer’s changes the brain, Penn Medicine physician Jason Karlawish told a 2016 Penn Alumni-Faculty Exchange audience. But despite research findings that suggest potential new approaches, there have been no dramatic changes in either the diagnostics or therapies currently available for the brain destroying disease.

Karlawish, MD, Co-Director of the Penn Memory Center, Director of Penn’s Neurodegenerative Disease Ethics and Policy Program (NDEP), and a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI), was one of a number of top Penn experts taking part in April’s day-long series of health research-related presentations for the 50th anniversary gathering of the Penn Class of 1966.


Ralston Center launches ‘Age-Friendly West Philadelphia’ initative

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney gives the keynote address at the announcement Tuesday. Credit:
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney gives the keynote address at the announcement Tuesday. (Credit:


The Ralston Center and its partners announced on Tuesday the launch of the “Age-Friendly West Philadelphia” initiative, a collaborative partnership two years in the making.

Services for West Philadelphia’s senior citizens are “plentiful,” but people don’t know where to look or whom to trust, said Ralston Center CEO Joseph Lukach. Ralston Center, a nearly 200-year-old organization dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of Philadelphia’s seniors, hopes to work with its 40-plus partners organizations — including the Penn Memory Center — to change that.

“Older West Philadelphians are more likely to live in poverty, to be obese or in poor health, and to face limitations with activities of daily living than older adults living elsewhere,” organizers wrote in the Ralston Center annual report.


Save the Date: Improv Night with Leah’s Legends


“Leah’s Legends,” a team of five talented friends of the Penn Memory Center, is set to debut its inaugural improv show after months of lessons and practice.

Join us in laughing with and at Leah’s Legends 7 to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 12, at Christ Church Neighborhood House.

This event is free, but please RSVP to Felicia Greenfield by emailing or calling 215-662-4523 by June 8.

Despite lack of Alzheimer’s cure, diagnosis necessary to prevent ‘series of disasters’

Credit: Jade McKnight
Credit: Jade McKnight


A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease will not lead to a prescription for a “miracle cure,” but older adults with memory problems still need to see a specialist to avoid preventable issues.

Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, gave the keynote address Saturday at “Alzheimer’s: The New Normal,” a conversation on cognitive aging, Alzheimer’s disease, research, and caregiving.

“I don’t have a miracle cure,” he said. “I don’t even have a drug for Alzheimer’s that can dramatically slow the course of the disease. You’re right. But what I can tell you is that if you don’t understand where you’re at and what to expect in the future, you, the person with Alzheimer’s disease, are a setup for a series of disasters,” including financial exploitation, hospitalization, and communication issues with patients’ families.

Watch a portion of his speech below:

Coordinator Tigist Hailu earns Master of Public Health degree

Tigist Hailu Graduation

Tigist Hailu, Penn Memory Center coordinator for diversity in research and education, has successfully graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Public Health (MPH) Program.

“The Penn Memory Center and the Penn Health Brain Research Center take great pride in Tigist Hailu receiving her master’s in public health from the University of Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center. “She’s learned skills and talents that are accelerating and expanding the Centers’ efforts to raise awareness and improve the cognitive health and well-being of older adults and their families. She’s an inspiration.”

Hailu oversees the Penn Memory Center’s multicultural recruitment with a particular focus on the African-American community in NACC and other research studies with the Penn Prevention Research Center’s Healthy Brain Research Network Center.

“I have been so impressed with Tigist’s creativity and determination,” said Dr. Carolyn Cannuscio, Hailu’s advisor in the MPH program. “Her work is so clearly motivated by a deep compassion for and commitment to her patients. She is a model for all our students.”

Tigist graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a bachelor’s in public health psychology and Africana studies.

Penn ADCC director helps honor first Alzheimer’s researcher to win Söderberg Prize

Dr. John Q. Trojanowski (center) and others listen to Queen Silvia of Sweden (second from left). Photo courtesy of the Swedish Society of Medicine.


Earlier this month, Penn Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center Director Dr. John Q. Trojanowski presented a lecture on “Experimental Transmission of Tau Pathology: Implications for Diagnosis and Therapy” at the 2016 Söderberg Prize Seminar at the Swedish Society of Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden.

This Seminar recognized Dr. Kaj Blennow, the first Alzheimer’s disease researcher to receive this award. Queen Silvia of Sweden, an avid Alzheimer’s disease research advocate, was in attendance to present the award.


Dementia imaging study could lead to PET scan Medicare coverage



A new clinical trial will likely lead to a change in physician management of dementia patients, said Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. David Wolk.

The $100 million Imaging Dementia – Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS) study, funded by Medicare, is testing the clinical value of PET scans, which can currently cost patients $5,000, according to an article published on Medicare decided in 2013 not to cover the scans in most clinical cases, even though they can identify misformed protein found in Alzheimer’s patients. The decision could be overruled if IDEAS shows that more scans could lead to fewer expensive hospitalizations.


Penn welcomes final symposium in Aging and Cognition series

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The Penn Healthy Brain Research Center is pleased to co-host the fourth and final installment of an international symposium on aging, cognitive decline, and the impact on financial services.

“Aging and Cognition: Maintaining Economic Security in Later Life” will be held May 9 and 10 at the Inn at Penn in Philadelphia. It follows similar symposia held in Tokyo, London, and Toronto.


In Washington testimony, Karlawish calls for federal whealthcare action

Dr. Jason Karlawish, Penn Memory Center Co-Director, testifies to the Elder Justice Coordinating Council Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Screenshot of livestream.)
Dr. Jason Karlawish, Penn Memory Center Co-Director, testifies before the Elder Justice Coordinating Council Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Screenshot of livestream.)


The United States has taken long strides towards treating and preventing the medical issues associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but now is the time to include the nation’s banks and financial services industries in a national plan.

Testifying before the Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC) Wednesday morning, Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish introduced “a new model to assure the financial security of aging Americans” he calls whealthcare.

“Among the first signs of cognitive changes caused by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive aging as well, are changes in our capacity to manage our finances,” putting the banking and financial services industries on the front lines of screening for cognitive impairment, Karlawish said.


Watch Live: Dr. Karlawish presents at Elder Justice Coordinating Council Meeting

The Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC) is bringing together leaders in government and research Wednesday morning, and a live stream of the meeting will be available here from 9 a.m. to noon:

The video was originally available here on, but it has since moved.


Dr. Karlawish joins Alzheimer’s discussions in Germany, Switzerland

Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, presents “The House of Alzheimer’s Disease” at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin this week.


Over the weekend, Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, joined colleagues from the University of Cambridge at Fondation Brocher in Hermance, Switzerland, for “The redefinition of Alzheimer’s disease and its social and ethical consequences. His co-organizers included Research Associate Milne Richard and Senior Research Associate Badger Shirlene.

The event brought together social scientists and ethicists to “explore the boundary between the clinical and research uses of biomarkers and how, as this boundary shifts, it changes how we study, care for and, as a society, approach Alzheimer’s disease,” according to the event’s website.


Living with mild cognitive impairment

Tigist Hailu meets with research participants. (Credit: Damari McBride)
Tigist Hailu meets with research participants. (Credit: Damari McBride)


How does MCI (mild cognitive impairment) affect the lives of those living with it? What’s a typical day for them?

That’s what Tigist Hailu, coordinator for Diversity in Research and Education at the Penn Memory Center, hopes to discover, using photos and in-depth interviews. “We want to understand the lives of older adults diagnosed with MCI by using photos as a tool to encourage conversation,” she said.

People with MCI, a disorder that affects as many of 20 percent of Americans age 65 and older, have a measurable memory impairment. Although studies suggest that they are experiencing the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, “having MCI doesn’t mean you’ll get dementia. It could stay the same in a year, improve, or could decline to dementia,” said Hailu, who is also a part-time student in Penn’s Public Heath master’s program. “Close follow-up helps to sort this out.”

While this level of cognitive impairment is not as serious as dementia, it does affect instrumental activities of daily living, a term that describes the ability to do life’s daily tasks such as managing medications, cooking and taking care of bills. As part of the study, participants will take photos that “represent or reflect features of their every-day life that frustrate, assist or challenge their memory and the tools they use to overcome them,” she said.


Alzheimer’s: The New Normal




The Penn Memory Center is proud to present “Alzheimer’s: The New Normal” in collaboration with Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.

Date: Saturday, May 14, 2016

Talk: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (lunch provided by Penn Memory Center to follow)

Location: Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, 230 West Coulter Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19144

RSVP: Contact Rev. Leroy Miles, associate pastor, at or 215-276-7200 by May 9.

Members of the public are invited to this free conversation on cognitive aging, Alzheimer’s disease, research, and caregiving.


Pneumonia often the cause of death for Alzheimer’s patients


physician holding hands with aptient

Patients in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, weakened by a lack of nutrition, often die from pneumonia, said Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish.

Responding to a New York Times reader question, Karlawish said these Alzheimer’s patients may stop eating and increase their risk of infection.

“You see a general decline in the contribution the brain makes, not just in thinking, but in maintaining the body’s homeostasis,” Karlawish said, adding that feeding tubes are discouraged, as they only prolong the patient’s suffering.

“Can Alzheimer’s Be Stopped?” airing April 13 on PBS

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Alzheimer’s disease strikes at the core of what makes us human: our capacity to think, to love, and to remember. The disease ravages the minds of over 40 million victims worldwide, and it is one of the greatest medical mysteries of our time.

Join investigators as they gather clues and attempt to reconstruct the molecular chain of events that ultimately leads to dementia, and follow key researchers in the field who have helped to develop the leading theories of the disease.

Along the way, meet individuals from all walks of life who will reveal what it’s like to struggle with Alzheimer’s. Among them, members of a unique Colombian family who have learned that their genetic predisposition all but guarantees early onset Alzheimer’s.

Yet there may be hope. Join these courageous patients participating in clinical trials, and then go behind the scenes of the major drug trials to see how researchers target and test therapies that may slow and even prevent Alzheimer’s.

“Can Alzheimer’s Be Stopped?” will air 9 p.m. April 13 on PBS.


Dr. Hamilton cautions against wearable cognitive technology

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Could wearable technology replace a glass of wine or a cup of coffee as a relaxation tool? Several companies think so, but one Penn Memory Center researcher said he has not yet worn the tech.

Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s “Note To Self,” tried a combination of wearable technology and an app called Thync as a relaxation tool.

The idea is that by pairing software and headphones, “you can make your brain better,” Zomorodi said.

Dr. Roy Hamilton, who in addition to his work at the Penn Memory Center directs the University of Pennsylvania’s Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation, said there is no evidence that products like Thync could have longterm adverse effects, but he still hasn’t personally tested the app.

“Your brain is not just one cognitive function. Your brain is circuits modulating, circuits interacting with networks that interact with other networks,” Hamilton said. “It’s the most complex instrument in the known universe, and we’re hitting it with current in these pretty crude ways.”



You can hear the complete Note to Self episode at

Innovative story-telling group Theatre of Witness comes to Penn Memory Center

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Theatre of Witness, an innovative story-telling group, focusing on deep listening and creative expression, is preparing for a six-week workshop at Ralston House.

Theatre of Witness is “a form of theater in which the true stories of people whose voices haven’t been heard are performed by the people themselves as a way for audiences to bear witness and humanize the other,” explained founder Teya Sepinuck.

Partnering with the Penn Memory Center and ARTZ Philadelphia, Sepinuck plans to bring together caregivers and loved ones living with dementia for six workshops 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays from April 6 to May 11.


Burn calories to reduce dementia risk, study says

Senior couple on cycle ride in countryside


Seniors who live an active lifestyle lower their risk of dementia, according to a new study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Researchers followed 876 volunteers with an average age of 78, and found that those who exercised more had brain volumes that were 5 percent larger than those who exercised the least. Over the course of five years, those with the larger volumes had “a 50 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s-related impairment or dementia,” according to

“To the extent that they are showing changes on brain scans, that is compelling mechanistic data,” Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish told “What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain, and physical activity is one of those things.”

Starting construction on the new House of Alzheimer’s Disease

Stephen Hume pictured his life as a room full of open windows and doors. Outside, the sun was shining, illuminating the path his life could take as he stepped through one of the countless thresholds.

But when his doctor diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s disease, “all those doors and windows shut, and I was in the dark.”

The House of Alzheimer’s Disease, where Hume found himself after that moment, has but one entrance through a door called dementia, Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish said.

Speaking at “The Changing Face of Alzheimer’s, Revisited,” a February symposium hosted by Drexel University, Karlawish explained that what he calls the House of Alzheimer’s Disease is slated for substantial reconstruction.

“To enter the House of Alzheimer’s Disease, an Alzheimer’s doctor like myself has to diagnose and label you with dementia. Until now,” he said.


Financial industry at ‘front line’ of cognitive impairment detection



Bankers and financial analysts are the “front lines” of screening and detection of cognitive impairment, and their industries need to catch up before a growing problem becomes uncontrollable.

“The banking and financial services industry of today that fails to address this problem will not be around tomorrow,” Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish said Monday at the 2016 Securities Industry Institute at The Wharton School. “It’s time to rethink your business model.”


Nancy Reagan ‘tremendously courageous’ for Alzheimer’s awareness



Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, caregiver to President Ronald Reagan after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, died Sunday morning.

In 1994, Ronald Reagan announced in a letter: “I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.”

From that moment forward, he and Nancy Reagan held a public dialogue of his diagnosis and the disease, Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

It was “tremendously courageous of them to issue that letter to the nation because it directly challenged the stigma that was attached to the diagnostic label,” Karlawish said.

Read the complete obituary at


PET scans reveal key details of Alzheimer’s protein growth in aging brains

Dr. William Jagust explains how tau and beta amyloid, two proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, develop in the aging brain. (Photo by Stephen McNally, UC Berkeley)
Dr. William Jagust explains how tau and beta amyloid, two proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, develop in the aging brain. (Photo by Stephen McNally, UC Berkeley)


New research led by scientists at UC Berkeley shows for the first time that PET scans can track the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s disease in cognitively normal adults, a key advance in the early diagnosis and staging of the neurodegenerative disorder.

In the process, the scientists also obtained important clues about two Alzheimer’s-linked proteins – tau and beta-amyloid – and how they relate to each other.

The findings, published March 2 in the journal Neuron, come from positron emission tomography (PET) of 53 adults. Five were young adults aged 20-26, 33 were cognitively healthy adults aged 64-90 and 15 were patients aged 53-77 who had been diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s dementia.


Precision medicine, a ‘major shift’ in clinical research


A little more than a year after the White House announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, researchers at Penn and across the nation are optimistic about the future of clinical treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

The “all-in approach” taken by federal agencies “could not be happening at a more opportune time,” said Cynthia Bens, executive director of Accelerate Cure/Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease (ACT-AD), which hosted a panel discussion on precision medicine Monday. More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease today, and that number is expected to more than triple by 2050, Bens said. Click here to listen to the complete presentation.


Event: Changes and Advances in Health Care

Join Penn Memory Center Co-Director Jason Karlawish as he participates in a panel discussion titled “Changes and Advances in Health Care” at 2:15 p.m. May 13 in Claudia Cohen Hall, Room G17, 249 South 36th Street. Click here to RSVP.

The panel will be moderated by Daniel Polsky, PhD, Executive Director of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, and Professor of Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine and the Robert D. Eilers Professor of Health Care Management in the Wharton School.

Panelists include: Jason Karlawish, MD, Professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy; Pamela Z. Cacchione, PhD, APRN, GNP, BC, FAAN Ralston House Endowed Term Chair in Gerontological Nursing, Associate Professor of Geropsychiatric Nursing and Shivan J. Mehta, MD, MBA, MSMP Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center.

Co-sponsored by the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and Penn Alumni Education

Event: ACT-AD Webinar on Personalized Medicine

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ACT-AD is excited to present a free, one-hour webinar focused on personalized medicine and Alzheimer’s disease. It will be held 3 p.m. Feb. 29. Click here to register.

Expert speakers include:

Jason H. Karlawish, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics, Penn Medicine

J. Michael Ryan, M.D., Vice President, Neurodegeneration Therapeutic Area Head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp

Cara Tenenbaum, J.D., MBA, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Center Director, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Cynthia A. Bens, Executive Director, ACT-AD, Vice President, Public Policy, Alliance for Aging Research

Risk of dementia in decline for some, but need for research still growing


The risk of some adults developing dementia is on the decline in the United States, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the Feb. 11 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed data from more than 5,000 participants in the Framingham Heart Study. Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine found that between 1977 and 2008, the risk of dementia for the average adult over the age of 60 declined by 20 percent each decade.

“One of the goals of U.S. National Alzheimer’s plan is that by 2025 we will effectively reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (it uses “Alzheimer’s disease” as an overarching term for all late-life causes of dementia),” Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish wrote in his column for Forbes. “This study suggests we’re already achieving that goal.”


Dr. Huege accepts new role at UCSD

md-steve-huege.200.280.sSteven Huege, MD, associate program director of the University of Pennsylvania’s geriatric psychiatry fellowship program, has accepted a new role at the University of California, San Diego.

Dr. Huege will leave the Penn Memory Center after eight years to become director of the UCSD geriatric psychiatry fellowship program in May. He will divide his time between the San Diego VA and the university’s Senior Behavioral Health Program and Department of Psychiatry.

“This is a new phase of my career, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue working with trainees in geriatric psychiatry,” said Huege, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Penn.

Huege began his current role with the Penn Memory Center in 2008 after completing his fellowship in geriatric psychiatry at Penn. He’s become increasingly involved in working with fellows and residents. He said working with the Penn Memory Center and its clinical trials has provided him with a “rich education in research.”

“I’m really very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such a dynamic and supportive team. I really have learned tremendously from all of my colleagues,” he said. “This is a program that both provides excellent patient care in addition to research and outreach, and I’ve been very grateful to have been a part of that for eight years now.”

Huege received his undergraduate degree from Duke University and his MD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He completed a residency is psychiatry at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital before his fellowship at Penn.

NIA director applauds Penn’s collaborative research centers

NIA Director Richard Hodes (back left) speaks to clinicians and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Feb. 1. (Photo by Nicolette Patete/Penn Institute on Aging)
NIA Director Richard Hodes (back left) speaks to clinicians and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Feb. 1. (Photo by Nicolette Patete/Penn Institute on Aging)


In a rare visit to the University of Pennsylvania, National Institute on Aging Director Richard Hodes spoke highly of the university’s abundance of research collaborations and encouraged expansion in that format for future studies.

Dr. Hodes was on the Penn campus Feb. 1 to meet with researchers and clinicians working in the fields of aging, neuroscience, and immunology through a series of round-table discussions.

Penn clinicians stressed the importance they place on training the next generation of scientists and healthcare providers and creating pilot programs to fund the research of junior faculty members. Hodes said he applauds the abundance of collaborative research, like that conducted by the Penn Memory Center.

“I believe we presented Dr. Hodes with a close-up, in-depth look at a very broad and representative swath of all the aging and neuroscience research currently underway here at Penn that has the potential to influence our biological understanding of Alzheimer’s and related dementias now and into the future, and the clinical research and disease modifying therapies to help better treat, protect, and understand patients with AD and related dementias,” said Dr. John Trojanowski, director of the Penn Institute on Aging.

Click here to read complete coverage on the IOA website.

New edition of InSight newsletter published

The Winter 2016 edition of the Penn Memory Center newsletter, InSight, has been published and sent to our mailing list.

Inside this edition:

  • A New Perspective: Joseph and Dorothea Jenkins discover the value in research participation
  • Features on the Memory Café and Cognitive Comedy
  • Living With Dementia: Guidance in a global classroom

Click the preview below or click here to take a closer look. If you didn’t receive your copy or want to be added to the mailing list, contact Terrence Casey at 215-898-9979 or

Event: “Meeting the Financial Needs of Older Adults”



Hosted by the Community Development Studies & Education Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, this meeting will explore the state of financial stability and economic security for older adults. In addition, attendees will learn about emerging research and practitioner perspectives on best practices for building financial capability for this demographic. Financial institutions and community partners will discuss efforts to provide age-friendly banking products and services that address financial abuse and fraud and provide access to banking for seniors. View a draft agenda here. (more…)

New Alzheimer’s study leader: We will succeed, improve quality of life

drfeldman-e1380999036817The University of California system has chosen a new director of its Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), and he says he is already optimistic about the “new era” of research and treatment.

“I think dementia research has entered a new stage,” said University of British Columbia neurologist Howard Feldman, who will formally begin his new role with ADCS in April. “Over the past two decades, we’ve learned an enormous amount about the biology of disease, and have advanced our ability for the first time to visualize the pathology of the dementias in the living brain. This heralds a new era in being able to mark the impact of treatment as we seek the elusive goal of slowing or preventing these dementias.”


I Am Life: Humanity in Advanced Dementia


Richard Rubin, PhD
Richard Rubin, PhD


I Am Life: Humanity in Advanced Dementia

Featuring Richard Rubin and Jason Karlawish

2 to 3:30 p.m. March 29, 2016

Room 11-146AB

Smilow Center for Translational Research, 3400 Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104

Space is limited. Please reserve your seat by calling Terrence Casey at 215-898-9979 or emailing


Former Surgeon General: Racial disparity in US healthcare ‘unsustainable’


African-Americans in the United States are more likely to die from HIV, develop Alzheimer’s disease, or require amputation from diabetic complications than their white counterparts, and the healthcare industry’s racial disparity is as much an economic issue as it is a social issue, said Richard Carmona.

“It’s about making smart decisions, because if you don’t deal with this, the disease and economic burden just continues to go up,” said the former Surgeon General of the United States. “And you can pass it on to the next generation, but what I can tell you today is, if we don’t do something about these disparities, these injustices and so on, the disease and economic burden we will leave our children is unsustainable. The bank is breaking today.”

Carmona was speaking as part of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Health Equity Symposium at the University of Pennsylvania Jan. 27. Watch the video below for a preview of his speech. Check back for complete coverage.


Drexel symposium revisits ‘the changing face of Alzheimer’s disease’

As researchers learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and its treatment, disagreements arise over how exactly to define elements of clinical care.

What is the line between age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease?

Is Mild Cognitive Impairment a pre-clinical symptom or a risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease?

Is Alzheimer’s disease really a single disease?

karlawish_200x280A Drexel University-led symposium, “The Changing Face of Alzheimer’s Disease, Revisited,” will ask a panel of experts to look at the past, present and future for answers to these questions and others 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26 in New College Building, Geary B, 245 N. 15th Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19102. This event is open to the public, but attendees are asked to RSVP here before Feb. 19.

Penn Memory Center Co-Director Jason Karlawish will present “The House of Alzheimer’s Disease.”


Join the Penn Memory Center on the dance floor

(Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger)
(Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger)


Dance for Health, a pilot study evaluating the effect of a dance program on both memory and overall health and fitness, is welcoming members of the public to join in on the weekly dance sessions. New dancers will not be part of the research program.

Dance for Health is held 5 to 7 p.m. every Thursday between Feb. 4 and April 28 at the Sayre Morris Recreation Center, 5835 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

The program, launched by the Penn School of Nursing two years ago, began working with the Penn Memory Center this year to recruit older adults.

Questions? Contact Tigist Hailu, coordinator for diversity in research and education, at 215-573-6095 or

Curtis Institute musicians to perform at next Memory Café



The Penn Memory Center’s next pop-up Memory Café will be held 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday, February 5 at Christ Church Neighborhood House. Be ready to be moved; we are very excited to announce that there will be a special musical performance by the Curtis Institute.

Due to the press the café received in the The Huffington PostPenn Current, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, we are expecting a larger-than-normal crowd. To help us prepare, please RSVP by e-mailing Genevieve Ilg or calling 215-630-0257 by Wednesday, February 3. Please include the total number of guests you plan to bring as well.

The Memory Café is open exclusively to Penn Memory Center patients and their caretakers/family members. 

Harvard professor presents cheaper, accurate methods for dementia research

When it comes to studying Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, researchers could save money and reach more participants by using mail, phone and online programs in place of clinic visits.

“Asking someone to answer their phone once a year is much easier than asking them to come in for half a day,” said Dr. Fran Grodstein, Harvard professor and Brigham and Women’s Hospital epidemiologist, at the University of Pennsylvania Jan. 21. Grodstein was participating in the Institute on Aging’s Visiting Scholar Series.


Lumosity to pay $2M for ‘brain training’ ad claims


Lumosity creator Lumos Labs will pay $2 million in a settlement over claims it made while advertising its “brain training” program, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced.

The FTC argued that Lumosity customers were tricked into thinking that the program would delay “cognitive impairment associated with age.”

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”


Webinar to tackle issue of elder abuse

Up to five million older American are abused, neglected, or exploited every year, and an upcoming webinar will bring together experts to move towards a solution.

Making Elder Justice a Reality, held 2-3 p.m. EST on Jan. 15, includes presentations from Kathy Greenlee, administrator of the Administration for Community Living and the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging, and Terry Fulmer, president of The John A. Hartford Foundation. Also presenting will be John Feather, CEO of Grantmakers in Aging, which is organizing the event.

Click here to register or for more information.

Clinton calling for $2B for Alzheimer’s research days after latest budget increase


Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAlzheimer’s disease has entered the 2016 presidential campaign.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for $2 billion in annual funding for research toward finding a treatment and a cure.

“We owe it to the millions of families who stay up at night worrying about their loved ones afflicted by this terrible disease and facing the hard reality of the long goodbye to make research investments that will prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible,” the Democratic front-runner said in a statement Tuesday.


GeneMatch launch kicks off ‘new era’ in Alzheimer’s research



A “new era in Alzheimer’s research” kicked off last week with the public unveiling of GeneMatch.

GeneMatch, an extension of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute’s online registry at, connects cognitively normal volunteers with research opportunities based on their genotype.

Dr. Eric Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, said he has long dreamed of a time that genetics could play a larger role in dementia research, “and that time has come.”

Cognitively normal adults ages 55 to 74 who supply GeneMatch with their information will be sent a cheek swab kit for DNA collection. Researchers can then use this information to match participants to nearby sites with open studies. This is more effective than traditional methods, which require study sites to find their own participants.


Cognitive Comedy: Using improv to improve memory, build confidence

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Les Wolff stood at the edge of the circle, introduced himself, and threw a punch into the air before him. For the next few minutes, anytime his name was mentioned, a punch was thrown.

It was all part of an improv exercise at the inaugural Cognitive Comedy workshop, presented by the Penn Memory Center. In this particular activity, participants were challenging their memory recalling both the names and unique actions from around the circle.

“For people who are getting older, it’s very important not only to exercise your mind, but to be aware that you’re capable of new things by not just what you’re doing but by watching what others do,” Wolff said.


A new perspective: Finding value in research participation

Terrence Casey / Penn Memory Center Joseph and Dorothea Jenkins (right) listen as Penn Memory Center intern Tobi Akindoju presents the results of his research at the University of Pennsylvania last summer.
Joseph and Dorothea Jenkins (right) listen as Penn Memory Center intern Tobi Akindoju presents the results of his research at the University of Pennsylvania last summer.

Joseph Jenkins was skeptical when he heard the Penn Memory Center was conducting research in his neighborhood.

A retired SEPTA employee living in West Philadelphia, he had spent his fair share of time participating in other organizations’ surveys and questionnaires about his community without ever seeing a result.

There was the bus station shelter he wanted to see installed on a nearby street corner.

No action.

Then there was that meeting at White Rock Baptist Church, where city officials made promise after promise about other improvements to the city.

No action.

“They never do anything,” he said. “Every time we have a meeting like this, nothing ever happens.”


Memory Café extended through April

The Penn Memory Center is pleased to invite our patients and friends to a new pop-up café at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City. This program is exclusively for people with memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, and their partners/families. Hours for this free café will be announced monthly.

“The challenges of living with memory loss can sever social connection at a time when it is needed the most,” said Felicia Greenfield, LCSW. “Memory café gatherings are a way for people with memory loss and their companions to come together to make new friendships.”


Penn leads the way in Alzheimer’s research and care

It’s an exciting time in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research, declared a recent article. Enhanced investment in research has led to new and improved treatments for cancer and other common illnesses, with Alzheimer’s perennially lagging in both available treatments and federal funding. But leading researchers, those at Penn among them, are now optimistic that treatments to slow or halt the disease will be available within five years.

Washington has committed some $5.4 billion this fiscal year to cancer research and $3 billion to research on HIV/AIDS, while research funding for Alzheimer’s will reach only about $566 million, according to a recent article in the AARP Bulletin. The more time that passes without any treatments, the more the disease will cost Medicare and the 5.1 million Americans with the disease.

For the past 20 years, Penn has been on the front lines of understanding Alzheimer’s causes, treating patients and uncovering possible prevention strategies.


Nursing homes testing dementia units intentionally stuck in the past

The Easton Home's Memory Kitchen
The Easton Home’s Memory Kitchen (Screenshot from


Nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the nation are slowly transitioning to create specialized memory units for their dementia patients.

The idea behind these Memory Lane designs — which sometimes include features such as a cast iron stove or a wood-paneled radio — is “reminiscence as therapy,” according to the Asssociated Press.


Health Equity Symposium to feature Surgeon General, Penn faculty

The University of Pennsylvania’s Office of Inclusion & Diversity invites you to attend the second annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Health Equity Symposium.

Dr. Richard Carmona, former Surgeon General of the United States, will be the keynote speaker. Penn faculty members Dr. Jaya Aysola, Dr. Tiffani Johnson, Dr. Shreya Kangovi, and Dr. C. Neil Epperson will comprise a speaker panel as well.

The symposium will be 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. January 27 at the Smilow Center for Translational Research in the Arthur H. Rubenstein Auditorium. Please RSVP here.

Loss of dignity in dementia falls on the public, not the patient

karlawish_200x280An elderly man suffering from dementia soils himself while shuffling down a nursing home hallway. A nurse finds him and leads him back to his room, cleaning up the mess left behind while a young boy visiting his grandmother watches in disgust. Across town, two parents bend over their infant child on the changing table and celebrate the accomplishment of yet another dirty diaper.

The older man and the child are similar in some ways, but how society responds to them is quite different. And if people living with dementia are to do so with dignity, the responsibility of ensuring they do falls on those around them, Dr. Jason Karlawish said at the ADC Caregiver Workshop at the UC Davis MIND Institute earlier this month.

“If we’re going to find dignity in dementia…we’re going to have to confront our feelings of disgust and our failure to bestow dignity to persons with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center.


Join the Penn Memory Center at the new Memory Café


The Penn Memory Center is pleased to invite our patients and friends to a new pop-up café at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City. This program is exclusively for people with memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, and their partners/families. Hours for this free café will be announced monthly.

“The challenges of living with memory loss can sever social connection at a time when it is needed the most,” said Felicia Greenfield, LCSW. “Memory café gatherings are a way for people with memory loss and their companions to come together to make new friendships.”


Robin Williams’ last act and the stigma of loss

karlawish_200x280The American public is shifting towards acceptance of doctor-assisted suicide in cases of patients with terminal disease. But what about when the patient is not terminal, but suffers from a neurodegenerative disease that will rob him of his dignity?

A year after comedian Robin Williams’ suicide, his widow announced that he had Lewy Body dementia in addition to Parkinson’s disease. Had he lived on, he would have begun losing the ability to move, think clearly, and make decisions.

In his latest Forbes column, Penn Memory Center Co-Director Jason Karlawish writes that the stigma associated with neurodegenerative diseases is more closely connected with the prognosis than with the diagnosis.

“As we pursue prevention, we’ll be labeling persons with neurodegenerative diseases at a stage when their disease is largely ahead of them,” he writes. “The ways we talk about living with Alzheimer’s disease, about the future after an early diagnosis, will shape whether we feel stigma and therefore a threat to our dignity and so our desire to be dead.”

Read the full column at

Penn Neurosciences campaign features Penn Memory Center


A new campaign for Penn Neurosciences prominently features the work of the Penn Memory Center (PMC) and Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish.

One of three videos hosted on interviews an Alzheimer’s disease patient named Don and his wife of 35 years, Corinne.


Local art exhibit to showcase work of patients with dementia, their caregivers



The creative work of people living with dementia and their caregivers will be on display beginning Friday at Impact Hub Philadelphia (1227 N. 4th Street, Philadelphia).

“The Place Where I Laugh,” which kicks off with an opening reception 6:30 to 8:30 Friday, will be on display for two weeks. ARTZ Philadelphia, which is hosting the event, will present local artist Sara Steele with the inaugural Community Catalyst Award.

“Join us in reflecting on the joy of self-expression that many people living with dementia — and their care partners — experience when their imaginations soar through art-making,” the event website reads.

Free registration is available on Beginning Monday and through Nov. 20, the exhibit will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact ARTZ Philadelphia Executive Direction Susan Shifrin at or (610) 721-1606 with any questions.



Dementia spending leads list of health care costs for individuals


An average person with dementia will need more than a quarter-million dollars’ worth of health care treatment in the last five years of life, greatly exceeding the costs associated with other diseases, according to a recent study.

The National Institute on Aging-funded study, published in the Oct. 27 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, estimated that someone with probable dementia would incur total health care costs of $287,000 in the last five years of life. Medicare beneficiaries treated for other health issues had an average cost of $183,000.

“It provides an important picture of the risks that families face, particularly those with dementia and those who may be least able to bear major financial risk,” NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes said in a statement. “Such insights are critically important as we examine how best to support the aging of the U.S. population.”


Symposium addresses art as respite for dementia patients, caregivers



The creative process can provide a stimulating respite for people living with dementia and their caregivers — that’s the idea behind the theme of Creative Spirit Symposium, planned for Wednesday at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown.

“The symposium spotlights the intersections of arts-centered experiences with the experiences of dementia, and how the arts can provide meaningful, stimulating and enjoyable respite for people living with the diagnosis and their care partners alike. A panel of regional experts will address the intersection of arts and dementia and engage with the audience in a lively discussion of the various ways in which programs and organizations are advancing these arts-centered approaches in our region, enhancing quality of life within our communities.” —


People’s Light tackles memory loss with ‘Auctioning the Ainsleys’


Carla Belver stars as Alice Ainsley in 'Auctioning the Ainsleys' on stage at People's Light in Malvern.
Carla Belver stars as Alice Ainsley in ‘Auctioning the Ainsleys,’ on stage at People’s Light in Malvern.


Auctioneer Alice Ainsley made a career of putting a price tag on possessions, but when her own memory begins to fade, the objects of her home become indispensable to her family.

The dark comedy ‘Auctioning the Ainsleys,’ on stage now at People’s Light in Malvern, Pa., stars Carla Belver in the regional premiere of the play by Laura Schellhardt.


AARP launches international group promoting ‘brain-healthy lifestyle’


In an effort to provide the public with “clear, trustworthy information on brain health,” AARP announced the creation of a new independent organization Tuesday.

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) brings together scientists, doctors, scholars, and policy experts from around the world to promote a “brain-healthy lifestyle.” The GCBH is an independent collaborative convened by AARP working together with Age UK—the United Kingdom’s largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life.

Penn Memory Center Co-Director Dr. Jason Karlawish has joined GCBH’s Governance Committee, which will serve as the hub of the organization’s hub-and-spoke structure. The spokes will be comprised of specialists focusing on single issues such as exercise, sleep, diet, stress, and medications.


Study on Alzheimer’s disease transmission leaves questions unanswered

Dr. John Trojanowski
Dr. John Trojanowski

Researchers across the nation are chasing answers to one question: Is it possible to transmit Alzheimer’s disease from one person to another?

Some researchers have taken the results of a study featured in the September edition of the journal Nature to say that it’s possible, but one Penn researcher who has studied the same data argues that’s just a misinterpreted result from a too-small study.

“Study another thousand people, then come back to me — another 7,000 people, then come back to me — and tell me what your findings are,” said Dr. John Trojanowski, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center at the University of Pennsylvania. (more…)

2015 Research Partner Thank You Breakfast informs, entertains

A panel of (from left) Felicia Greenfield, Dr. Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton, Dr. David Wolk and Dr. John Trojanowski, listen to an attendee's question at the 2015 Research Partner Thank You Breakfast.
A panel of (from left) Felicia Greenfield, Dr. Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton, Dr. David Wolk and Dr. John Trojanowski, listen to an attendee’s question at the 2015 Research Partner Thank You Breakfast.


After another year of studying neurodegenerative diseases with the help of hundreds of volunteers, the Penn Memory Center (PMC) thanked about 200 of those research participants and their family members with an informational breakfast.

The annual event, held at the Inn at Penn the morning of October 24, brought research participants face-to-face with the clinicians and coordinators working on PMC studies.


‘Still Alice’ screening and Q&A


Join Boomers ‘R Heroes Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers Support Group on October 24 for a free screening of ‘Still Alice’ at First Corinthian Baptist Church.

“This moving production is a thought-provoking vehicle for any and all who are caring for a family member suffering with Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. This feature will touch all emotions, allowing you to openly share your feelings and accept suggestions from others. Please come out and join us.”

What: ‘Still Alice’ screening and Q&A
Time: Noon to 2 p.m.
Date: October 24
Place: First Corinthian Baptist Church, 5101 Pine Street, Philadelphia