Penn Memory Center News

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 4 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 at Three Parkway Room 1043. This event is open to the public.

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

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 11.43.51 AM


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

Path to equity in healthcare ‘will be long,’ but is in reach

Angela Ddamba, right, signs in guests in 2014 at “Forget Me Not,” a play about Alzheimer’s disease among African-Americans, held at Freedom Theater.


Angela Ddamba joined the Penn Memory Center as a volunteer on a mission; she wanted to increase African-American participation in research. She completed her time here confident that equity in healthcare is within reach.

In her own words, here is her story:

Before I began volunteering with the Penn Memory Center (PMC), I had not been exposed to elder care in the community. This experience allowed me to work with the older, mainly African-American population in Philadelphia. I worked with Coordinator for Diversity in Research and Education Tigist Hailu, mainly to help with enrollment of African-American participants into NACC, a nationwide study of Alzheimer’s disease.


Picture This: 2015 Senior Strut

Walkers complete the 2015 Senior Strut at Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row.
Walkers complete the 2015 Senior Strut at Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row.


Seniors took to Boathouse row Friday morning as part of the one-mile 2015 Senior Strut.

At Lloyd Hall, the finish line of the walk, Penn Memory Center (PMC) staffers Tigist Hailu and Jessica Nunez distributed stress balls and PMC handouts. Outside, former Philadelphia Eagle Mike Quick addressed participants while a trio of Mummers serenaded the remaining walkers.

“I’m not as young as I used to be, and what I do [to exercise] is what you all did this morning,” said Quick, who also touted the benefits of yoga, saying “there’s nothing better for our aging bodies.”

See photos from the event below:


Dr. Roy Hamilton wins Penn teaching award

staff-roy-hamilton.200.280.sDr. Roy Hamilton, a clinician with the Penn Memory Center, has been selected as the recipient of the Leonard Berwick Memorial Teaching Award.

The award, given to “a member of the medical faculty who in his or her teaching effectively fuses basic science and clinical medicine,” is typically given to a junior faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hamilton is an assistant professor of neurology, co-director of the Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation and is the associate director of Penn’s Clinical Neurosciences Training Program.


‘Dealing with Dementia’ explores elder LGBT issues

bloggerweb_bannerJoin the Penn Memory Center’s Felicia Greenfield November 14 at The Aging Mind 102: Dealing With Dementia.

The free informational forum “will explore the journeys of LGBT older adults who have been impacted by dementia or cognitive decline.”

“Join us to learn about the neruological aspects of dementia, behavioral interventions, financial issues, and end-of-life planning,” a flyer reads. Light refreshments will be served.

What: Dealing With Dementia
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, November 14
Where: The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern NJ, 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, Pa.

To register, contact the LGBT Elder Initiative at 215-720-9415 or


Public-health action ‘urgently needed’ for growing elderly population

Click the image above to see animation.


As people are living longer than ever before, society needs to make an investment in the elderly, according to a new report.

“Comprehensive public-health action on ageing is urgently needed, and there is something that can be done in every setting, no matter what the level of socio-economic development,” declared the World Health Organization’s World Report on Ageing and Health, released last week.


Penn program uses dance to promote cognitive health



A planned University of Pennsylvania program using dance to promote cognitive health was featured by the American Public Health Association.

Penn Memory Center (PMC) researchers plan to partner with First Corinthian Baptist Church in West Philadelphia to provide senior citizens with group dancing sessions, PMC Co-Director Jason Karlawish said in the interview. The idea spawned from the interest adults were showing in a similar program used at a local middle school to target obesity.

“What we found is that many of the young people were coming with parents or grandparents, and we discovered that’s an opportunity to get older adults dancing, too,” Karlawish told The Nation’s Health. “Certainly, physical activity is related to weight management, but it’s also related to brain health. The researchers at Penn have developed ways using line-and related dance activities to engage groups in physically and socially engaging activities.”

Click here to read the entire article.


Register now for free Cognitive Comedy Workshop

Credit: Julie Kertesz/Flickr
Credit: Julie Kertesz/Flickr

Join The Penn Memory Center this fall for one of two sessions of “Cognitive Comedy Workshop.”

The free workshop, held 10 a.m. to noon at The Ralston House (3615 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa.), highlights the relationship between cognition and long-form improvisation, as taught by local and East Coast improv comedians.

The course will be held for beginners. Meet, greet, talk, learn the basics, play games, do improv exercises, and finally act out scenes. Through listening, word association, and natural comedy instinct, you can find yourself confident, hilarious, and healthy!


West Philadelphia ‘large steps away’ from being age-friendly community

Tobi Akindoju stands outside First Corinthian Baptist Church, the focal point of his research. (Terrence Casey / Penn Memory Center)


An elderly person’s cognitive health is largely dependent on his or her environment, and West Philadelphia is several large steps away from being an age-friendly neighborhood, according to recent research.

The neighborhood’s necessary improvements — including a decrease in crime and an increase in age-friendly transportation options — were highlighted in a community health mapping project recently presented at the University of Pennsylvania by Tobi Akindoju.


Stigma more closely connected to Alzheimer’s symptoms than diagnosis

stockvault-dying-woman132393A patient’s medical future is a greater cause of stigma than an actual diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study.

The negative beliefs associated with Alzheimer’s — that patients will become unruly in social situations or abandon personal hygiene, for example — are related to the prognosis rather than the diagnosis, researchers said.

“Alzheimer’s disease label was generally not associated with more stigmatizing reactions,” the study’s authors wrote. “In contrast, expecting the symptoms to get worse…resulted in higher levels of perceived structural discrimination, higher pity, and greater social distance.”


Our goal: help society ‘live with a new vision of Alzheimer’s disease’

karlawish_color-corrected[1] copyJason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, recently spoke of his work and the center’s mission during an interview with the Alliance for Aging Research.

“My research goal is to help not just patients but society to live with a new vision of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. “Many more people will have it, and the simple fact is we are going to have to learn to live with Alzheimer’s. It’s going to be a part of the human condition for the foreseeable future.”

Read the complete interview at



Penn expert panel reimagines end-of-life care



When facing their own mortality, people tend to reevaluate their top priority in life. Is it enough simply to exist? Or is a life without happiness or comfort worth the pain and suffering that comes with terminal illness?

This was one issue tackled by a panel of University of Pennsylvania medical experts during “Reimagining the End of Life,” moderated by health journalist Jackie Judd Wednesday afternoon.


Defying expectations, study finds no connection between exercise and brain function

Credit: Military Health
Credit: Military Health



Conventional wisdom tells us that exercise can help strengthen all of our muscles — including our brains. Study after study has reinforced this wisdom.

So Dr. Kaycee Sink was understandably surprised when her recent study found no connection between physical activity and cognitive health.


Study: Vascular health connected to dementia

Dr. Julie Schneider presents her study results August 25, 2015.
Dr. Julie Schneider presents her study results August 25, 2015.


Vascular health could play a major role in diagnosing and preventing dementia, according to a study presented recently at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Julie Schneider, Professor of Pathology and Neurological Sciences and Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University in Chicago, declared that the scientific community needs to reevaluate its approach when it comes to studying neurodegenerative diseases.

“We have to think more broadly about dementia and aging,” she said during her August 25 presentation. “We need to start thinking about other targets.”


NIH set for big budget boost

Credit: wallyg/Flickr
Credit: wallyg/Flickr


A bill calling for a $2 billion boost to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget was approved by a Senate panel last month, setting the stage for the organization’s largest raise in 12 years.

President Barack Obama had asked Congress to add $1 billion, and the House of Representatives has already voted to add an additional $100 million on top of that.

Additionally, the Senate bill is calling for a dramatic increase in Alzheimer’s research funding, via a 25 percent increase for the National Institute on Aging, according to a report in Science Magazine.

The final bill, approved by both the House and Senate, will likely include a budget increase between $1.1 billion and $2 billion.

Study: Exercise improves memory, but more isn’t necessarily better

Credit: KOMU News
Credit: KOMU News


Any amount of exercise is good for both body and mind, but harder workouts don’t necessarily lead to a sharper mind.

A recent study out of the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center found that its senior research participants scored better on both physical endurance and memory tests after 26 weeks of regular brisk walking. But whether participants spent 75 minutes or 225 minutes per week on the treadmill, scores on the memory tests were largely the same. Participants who changed nothing about their lifestyle showed no improvement.

Don’t use that to excuse an easy workout routine, researchers warn, as general physical fitness has many health benefits.

Read more in The New York Times.

Dementia Friendly America initiative seeks to inform, equip communities

Communities and organizations across America are banding together with a unified message for families dealing with dementia: “You are not alone.” That’s the central theme behind Dementia Friendly America, an initiative announced last month at the White House Conference on Aging.

Six pilot communities are taking the lead by reaching out to the underserved and informing the rest of the public about the roles they play.

“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can be devastating to American families, but we are not powerless to support those living with the disease, their caregivers and loved ones,” said Senator Bill Frist, national spokesperson for Dementia Friendly America. “Starting in these communities, we’re building a nationwide effort to educate Americans about dementia, equip business owners and first responders to recognize and assist those with memory loss, and empower people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to engage independently and safely in community life for as long as possible.”

Read more from Sen. Frist in his Forbes column.

Why Bankers, Financial Analysts And Doctors Need To Start Working Together

Of all life’s day-to-day chores, managing finances is among the most cognitively demanding. Jason Karlawish, MD, co-director of the Penn Memory Center and professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy and Dan G. Blazer, MD, Ph.D – discuss how declines in financial capacity are among the first signs that an older adult is suffering from cognitive impairment, which means that not only doctors but the banking and financial services industries are also diagnosing it.

To read the Forbes article, Click here

Alzheimer’s affects African-American brains differently than whites, study suggests

Alzheimer’s disease may cause different changes in the brain of African Americans than in white Americans of European descent, according to a study published in the July 15, 2015, online issue of the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The research, conducted by Lisa L. Barnes at the Rush University Medical Center, suggests that African Americans are less likely than Caucasians to have Alzheimer’s disease alone and more likely to have other pathologies associated with dementia.

To read more, click here

GenPhilly Presents: “Still Alice” Screening, Discussion and Resources

Movie screening of “Still Alice” and discussion in partnership with the Delaware Valley Alzheimer’s Association at the The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. The Penn Memory Center will have a resource table to display information about how people can participate in Alzheimer’s disease research.

When: Thursday, July 16th 2015

Where: Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, 2100 Arch Street

Time: 6:30pm


still alice











For more information about GenPhilly, click here

Non-memory Alzheimer’s symptoms more likely in younger people

A study in the April 2015 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia led by researchers from University City College London and the U.S. – including David Wolk, MD, co-director of the Penn Memory Center – found that one in four persons under 60 did not report memory loss as a first sign of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers analyzed data from the NIH supported NACC study – a national database of participants attending Alzheimer’s disease Center’s across the United States – to show these notable differences between how Alzheimer’s presents in older adults compared to younger adults.

In explaining the importance of the study, Dr. Wolk said “these findings that symptoms other than memory loss may be how the disease presents in younger adult are not only vital for helping to diagnose Alzheimer’s, they also suggest differences in how Alzheimer’s develops and progresses, differences that could have an impact on developing treatments.”

To read more, click here

The A4 Study Seeks African American Volunteers

Patty Jackson of 105.3WDAS recently interviewed Reisa Sperling, MD of Harvard Medical School and Stephanie Monroe, the director of African Americans Against Alzheimer’s Disease about the A4 Study. Sperling and Monroe addressed the need for older African Americans to get involved in the clinical trial. Listen to the interview below.


The A4 Study is actively recruiting participants at the Penn Memory Center. For more information, contact Study Coordinator Jessica Nuñez at 215-662-4379 or


When difficulty balancing the checkbook is a tip-off of more to come

Keeping tabs on personal finances is not always a top priority. But in older adults, when that skill slips, it might indicate cognitive aging or a neurodegenerative disease. Jason Karlawish, MD, a professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics, and Health Policy shared with WHYY radio at the Institute of Aging’s annual retreat, which this year focused on financial security.

To listen, click here

Brain food is real: Study shows how diet affects memory as we age

According to a new study published in the online issue of Neurology, researchers found that seniors who consumed the most nutritious food had a nearly 25% reduction in the risk of memory decline compared to those with the least healthy diets.

To read more, click here

NIH summit delivers recommendations to transform Alzheimer’s disease research

The National Institutes of Health released recommendations today that provide a framework for a bold and transformative Alzheimer’s disease research agenda. Developed at the recent Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2015: Path to Treatment and Prevention, the highly anticipated recommendations provide the wider Alzheimer’s research community with a strategy for speeding the development of effective interventions for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

To read more, click here

Protecting the Elderly From Fraud

A Penn Institute on Aging retreat this week addressed cognitive aging and financial decision-making and what can be done to protect elders from fraud and abuse. Co-sponsored by the Penn Healthy Brain Research Center, the speakers included experts in dementia, brain research and age-friendly banking.

Jason Karlawish, MD, acting co-director of the Penn Memory Center,  introduced IDA – the Interview for Decisional Abilities – which offers Adult Protective Services workers a tool to gather information about a client’s decision-making abilities. Dr. Karlawish developed IDA in collaboration with faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College, who also  presented at the IOA retreat.
To read the Philadelphia Inquirer’s coverage of the event, click here.

As Cognition Slips, Financial Skills Are Often the First to Go

Studies show that the ability to perform simple math problems, as well as handling financial matters, are typically one of the first set of skills to decline in diseases of the mind, like Alzheimer’s. Research has also shown that even cognitively normal people may reach a point where financial decision-making becomes more challenging. A New York Times article explores this issue of cognitive decline and financial decision-making.

You can read the article here.

New York Academy of Sciences Podcast Series on Dementia

The New York Academy of Sciences​ podcast series on dementia is now available for download and features interviews with Penn Memory Center​’s Jason Karlawish, MD.

The first episode of the five-part podcast series begins to answer questions such as:  What is Alzheimer’s? How is it different from other forms of dementia? Is it an inevitable part of aging? The podcast series features interviews with leading dementia experts from multiple sectors: academia, health care, public policy, and beyond.

You can download the free podcast at the NYAS website: or on iTunes:

Learn the Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease. Learn the facts. Watch the Alzheimer’s Association’s video “Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures 2015”:

Thinking More About Cognitive Aging

A Penn Medicine blog post looks at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on cognitive aging which was released last week.

Writer Lee-Ann Donegan says, “The subject of aging is something I’ve thought about a great deal this week, having just celebrated a milestone birthday. But the thing that gets me upset much more than my own aging, is the aging of my parents and older relatives. This week, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent organization that advises the government and the public on health decisions, published a report on a relatively new concept known as “cognitive aging.” ”

Ms. Donegan spoke with Jason Karlawish, MD, acting co-director of the Penn Memory Center, about the report.

“The report differentiates the processes of cognitive aging from those of neurodegeneration,” says Dr. Karlawish, one of 16 authors of the report, all of whom are national leaders in aging research and practice.

In addition to explaining cognitive aging, the report also provides actionable steps supported by research that people can take to maintain cognitive health as they age.

Read the IOM’s entire report, Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action.  

Promoting Cognitive Health in the 21st Century: A New IOM Report Recognizes the Public Health Importance of Cognitive Aging

The Institute of Medicine has released Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action, a report on the public health dimensions of cognitive aging. The report, released on April 14, 2015, is timely. The U.S. population is rapidly aging and individuals are becoming more concerned about their cognitive health. Older adults view “staying sharp” as perhaps one of their most important health care goals.

Prepared by the Committee on the Public Health Dimensions of Cognitive Aging, the report assesses examined definitions and terminology, epidemiology and surveillance, prevention and intervention, education of health professionals, and public awareness and education.

Jason Karlawish, MD, associate director of the Penn Memory Center and director of the Penn Prevention Research Center’s Healthy Brain Research Center — a member of the CDC supported Healthy Brain Network dedicated to surveillance, education, awareness and empowerment that promotes brain health — was a member of the report committee.

“This report is a beginning,” Dr. Karlawish explained. “ Over the last 30 years we have made substantial progress in understanding the causes of neurodegeneration. Alzheimer’s disease has gone from a hidden disorder, to a front and center national concern. Now, we need to pay the same attention to cognitive aging.”

Cognitive aging is a process of gradual, ongoing, yet highly variable, changes in cognitive functions that occur as people get older. Age-related changes in cognition can affect not only memory but also decision-making, judgment, processing speed, and learning.  “Among our key findings was that both human and animal models show how in cognitive aging, neurons are not working as well, but they’re not dying.” Dr. Karlawish noted that this is important because “Synapses may be sick, but there’s a chance they can get well again.”

The report’s findings and recommendations address steps individuals, health care professionals, communities and society can take to promote cognitive health:

  • Increasing research and tools to improve the measurement of cognitive aging.
  • Promoting physically activity; reducing and managing cardiovascular disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking; and regularly discussing and reviewing with a health care professional the medications that might influence cognitive health.
  • Expanding public communications efforts around cognitive aging with clear messages that the brain ages, just like other parts of the body; cognitive aging is not a disease; cognitive aging is different for every individual (there is wide variability across persons of similar age); some cognitive functions improve with age, and neurons are not dying as in Alzheimer’s disease (hence, realistic hope is inherent in cognitive aging); and finally, there are steps that patients can take to protect their cognitive health.
  • Developing and improving financial programs and services used by older adults to help them avoid financial exploitation, optimize independence, and make sound financial decisions.
  • Health care systems and health care professionals should implement interventions to insure optimal cognitive health across the life cycle including programs to avoid delirium associated with medications or hospitalizations.
  • Determining the appropriate regulatory review, policies and guidelines for products advertised to consumers to improve cognitive health, particularly medications, nutritional supplements, and cognitive training.


The report, a slide set,  and a four-page key point summary, are free and available for download at

“Nature Medicine” Looks at Efforts to Improve Patient Access to Data from Clinical Trials in Which They Participated

Nature Medicine recently looked at efforts to improve patient access to results from clinical trials in which they’ve participated. In an April 7, 2015 article published online, writer Shraddha Chakradhar highlights the Penn Memory Center’s annual Thank You Breakfast for research participants, and spoke with Jason Karlawish, MD about the PMC’s efforts to loop patients back in to the research process.

Shraddha Chakradhar writes: Before instituting the breakfasts, Karlawish was struck by how participants viewed themselves in the research process. “Participants often used comparisons to being a research monkey or guinea pig and other nonhuman animals to describe their role in the research process,” Karlawish says. “It was as if their humanity was in some sense removed, but they were still willing to participate” in research, he adds.

You can read the full article here.

PMC Presentations at Surrey Senior Services

Steven E. Arnold, MD, director of the Penn Memory Center  and David Wolk, MD, assistant director of the Penn Memory Center, both recently gave presentations at Surrey Services for Seniors in Devon, PA. Dr. Arnold’s presentation “Conundrums in Research on the Aging Mind” and Dr. Wolk’s presentation, “How Early Can we Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease?” are available for viewing on YouTube. You can find the links below:

Conundrums in Research on the Aging Mind

How Early Can We Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease?


Surrey Services for Seniors is a non-profit organization offering comprehensive resources, services and activities in Broomall, Devon, Haverford and Media, PA. Their mission is to help older adults live at home with independence and dignity and continue as active members of the community. The PMC presentation series at Surrey continues in April and May:

Friday, April 17, 2015 from 9:30 a.m.– 11:00 a.m.

Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Fitness: a Proactive ApproachDawn Mechanic-Hamilton, Ph.D.

How can we maximize our cognitive health as we age? We will review the changes expected with typical aging and how we can use compensatory strategies and changes in behavior to maintain cognitive health.
Friday, May 15, 2015 from 9:30  a.m. – 11:00 a.m 

Caring for the Dementia Caregiver: Promoting self-care to achieve better outcomes for the person with dementiaFelicia Greenfield, LCSW

Family caregivers of people with dementia are at increased risk of adverse health including increased stress, anxiety and depression. Self-care for the caregiver is essential for improving not only the health and well-being of the caregiver, but of the person with dementia as well.

To register for these lectures, please call 610-647-9172.  Lectures are free to the public and are held at:

Surrey Services for Seniors
60 Chestnut Avenue
Devon, PA 19333



IOA Visiting Scholars Series featuring Dr. Ann Marie Kolanowski – April 29

The Institute on Aging will host its Visiting Scholars Series featuring Dr. Ann Marie Kolanowski on April 29, 2015. Dr. Kolanowski will present “Behavioral Health In The Nursing Home: Building A Web One Thread at a Time” at the University of Pennsylvania-Smilow Translational Research Center in the Rubenstein Auditorium at 3:00pm.

To register,  please visit or call 215-898-7801.  This event is free and open to the public; registration is requested.

The Smilow Translational Research Center is located at 3400 Civic Center Boulevard and the Rubenstein Auditorium is on the 1st floor.  Smilow is adjacent to the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine (PCAM).  For driving directions and parking suggestions, please visit:

Is Harper Lee Killing Her Own Mockingbird?

In a Philadelphia Inquirer Op-Ed column about novelist Harper Lee and the surprise news that a second novel of hers will soon be published, Jason Karlawish, MD points to the growing public-health problem of older adults with impaired cognition and the potential for exploitation and abuse that can arise. You can read the column here.

2015 Frontotemporal Degeneration Caregiver Conference – July 24, 2015

Registration has opened for the 2015 Frontotemporal Degeneration Caregiver Conference

The conference will be held on Friday, July 24, 2015 from 8am – 4:30pm in the Biomedical Research Building II/III Lobby and Auditorium.

The Penn Frontotemporal Degeneration Center invites you to attend a day-long conference for caregivers of persons with FTD and related conditions such as ALS and Corticobasal Degeneration. This conference is open to family caregivers,health professionals, scientists, students and others with an interest in FTD. This conference will include presentations by Dr. Murray Grossman and a team of experts in the field of FTD.

To Register:
There is no charge to attend this event, but space is limited. Pre-registration is required via
Program time: 8:00-4:30 PM includes lunch and morning and afternoon refreshments.

Any questions or concerns can be directed to Christine Ray at or 215-349-5873.

Deborah Fries Wins Poetry Prize

Congratulations to writer Deborah Fries, a contributor to Penn Memory Center‘s InSight newsletter and the website! Deborah has been awarded 3rd Prize in the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s 25th Anniversary Poetry Competition.

Deborah’s poem – “About that coupling” – reflects on the throw of the dice that gave her two copies of the ApoE4 gene, putting her at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer disease. You can read the poem here.

The Need For Financial Capability To Build Assets And Wealth

Jason Karlawish, MD addressed the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s (NCRC) Annual Conference –  “Creating a Just Economy” – on March 27, 2015 with his presentation, “The Need for Financial Capability to Build Assets and Wealth.” NCRC promotes access to basic banking services to create and sustain affordable housing and job development in underserved communities. To read about the conference, click here.

Caring for Alzheimer’s: How Three Couples Cope

Members of Penn Memory Center’s caregiver support group are featured in a Wall Street Journal article about the physical and emotional toll on caregivers as the disease progresses in their loved ones. PMC’s Felicia Greenfield, LCSW, leads the group.  You can read the WSJ article here. For information about the support class, please click here.

The Aging Brain and Alzheimer’s Disease: Let’s Talk About Your Brain at the Franklin Instutue

Tonight, March 11, 2015, is  the night for “The Aging Brain and Alzheimer’s Disease: Let’s Talk About Your Brain” at The Franklin Institute, 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Join experts in aging and Alzheimer’s disease from Penn Memory Center for a discussion of the ‪#‎aging‬ brain, ‪#‎Alzheimer‬‘s disease and the impact on families and communities.

Presenters include:
John Trojanowski, M.D., Ph.D.
Director of the Institute on Aging and Co-Director, Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, University of Pennsylvania

Felicia Greenfield, L.C.S.W.
Associate Director for Clinical and Research Operations, Penn Memory Center, University of Pennsylvania

Staff from the Penn Memory Center will be on hand talk about our programs and services including PENN Care Management (our geriatric care management program), Cognitive Fitness, research opportunities and more. To register for this event, please call 215-448-1200.

For more information, click here.

How Can We Really Live with Alzheimer’s?

Jason Karlawish, M.D. suggests in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday March 8, 2015 that Still Alice, the bestselling novel and 2014 film, is not the right story to help us understand Alzheimer’s disease.
Still Alice raises awareness, but it’s not the right story to help us understand Alzheimer’s disease or how we’ll live with it in the 21st century,” says Dr. Karlawish. “The history of the 20th century is the history of the triumph of autonomy, and Alzheimer’s disease is a disease because it takes this away. As the U.S. embarks on a national plan to prevent it, these efforts, however, are going to challenge the very same autonomy we wish to protect,” he adds.

You can read the Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

Jason Karlawish, MD on WHYY FM’s Radio Times, Monday March 9

Listen live now on Radio Times to Jason Karlawish, associate director of the Penn Memory Center, and a discussion of end-of-life-issues and Alzheimer’s disease.

NIH-led Effort Launches “Big Data” Portal for Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery

A National Institutes of Health public-private partnership aimed at accelerating Alzheimer’s disease drug development  launched its “Big Data” portal on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, enabling researchers to share and analyze large biomedical datasets. The first wave of data was also released.

The venture brings together NIH, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and industry and academic scientists from a variety of disciplines with a goal of  translate knowledge faster and more successfully into new therapies.

“This is an important initiative that could lead to novel targets for AD drug discovery,” says John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, director of Penn’s Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center.

You can visit the The AMP AD Knowledge Portahere.

Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury

A film documenting the year in the life of a woman with Frontotemporal Degeneration will debut on Tuesday, March 10th at 8 pm on WHYY TV Philadelphia.  View a short trailer of Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury here.

Psychiatric Drug Overuse by Older Americans with Alzheimer’s Disease Is Cited by Federal Study

The New York Times reports that Federal investigators have found evidence of overuse of psychiatric drugs by older Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, and are recommending that Medicare officials take immediate action to reduce unnecessary prescriptions.The findings were released on Monday, March 2, 2015 by the Government Accountability Office. You can read the report here and you can find the New York Times article here.


The Aging Brain and Alzheimer’s Disease: Let’s Talk About Your Brain

The Aging Brain and Alzheimer’s Disease: Let’s Talk About Your Brain

The Franklin Institute

March 11, 2015
7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Join experts in aging and Alzheimer’s disease from the Penn Memory Center for an evening at the Franklin Institute. We’ll discuss the aging brain, Alzheimer’s disease and the impact it has on families and communities.

Presenters include:

John Trojanowski, M.D., Ph.D.
Director of the Institute on Aging and Co-Director, Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, University of Pennsylvania

Felicia Greenfield, L.C.S.W.
Associate Director for Clinical and Research Operations, Penn Memory Center, University of Pennsylvania

Staff from the Penn Memory Center will be on hand talk about our programs and services including PENN Care Management (our geriatric care management program), Cognitive Fitness, research opportunities and more.

Ticket Prices:
Free for Franklin Institute members
$5.00 for non-members

For more information, click here. To register for this event, please call 215-448-1200.

Ethics Committee Educational Seminar to Feature Jason Karlawish

Dr. Jason Karlawish, associate director of the Penn Memory Center, will speak at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Ethics Committee Educational Seminar on Thursday, March 5 at 4pm. The topic will be “Ethical Issues in the Care of Older Adults with Cognitive Impairment.”

For more information contact James Kirkpatrick, MD at or Mary Walton, MSN, RN, MBE at

To download a flyer, click here.

CME Information:

Title: Ethical issues in the care of older adults with cognitive impairment
Presenter: Jason Karlawish, MD
Series: Ethics Education Seminar Series 2014-2015
Date: 3-5-2015

**How to Submit Your RSS Attendance Electronically**: We offer two methods for electronically submitting your attendance at Regularly Scheduled Series:
a) SMS text messaging or b) via the web.

For complete instructions on both processes, please visit:

Penn CME

Having Trouble Sleeping? Practicing Mindfulness Meditation May Help

If you’re like many Americans, getting a good night’s sleep can often seem out of reach. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that practicing mindfulness meditation can significantly improve the quality of one’s sleep. As Anahad O’Connor points out in The New York Times – Well – Health, this can be particularly relevant to Americans older than 55, about half of whom have some form of sleep trouble. You can read the JAMA study here.

PBS NewsHour Explores How Music Can Help Those With Dementia

A group of musicians, all suffering, to varying degrees, from dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, call themselves The Fifth Dementia and jam together twice a week. PBS NewsHour visited with the musicians and their families to learn how music has made a difference in their lives, by helping them stay active and connected. You can read the report and watch a video here.

Neuroscience Public Lecture: “Degeneration in the Aging Brain,” March 12

The students of the Penn Neuroscience Graduate Group are hosting a Neuroscience Public Lecture entitled “Degeneration in the Aging Brain,” on Thursday, March 12th in Smilow Auditorium at 6:30pm. This FREE event will feature 3 fifteen minute TED-style talks from Penn Neuroscience faculty Virginia Lee, Alice Chen-Plotkin, and Harry Ischiropoulos. A reception will follow.

Registration and more information can be found here (

Date: Thursday, March 12th, 6:30pm (Check-in begins at 6pm)
Location: Smilow Center for Translational Research Auditorium, 3400 Civic Center Blvd, Philadelphia, PA, 19104

Silicon Valley Start Up Hopes to Catch Alzheimer’s Before Memory Slips

A Silicon Valley health start-up, Neurotrack,  is developing a computerized visual test that aims to accurately identify people at risk of Alzheimer’s. The test requires no language or motor skills; participants view images on a monitor while a camera tracks their eye movements. According to Scientific American, “The test draws on the research of Neurotrack co-founder Stuart Zola of Emory University who studies learning and memory in monkeys. When presented with two images—one novel, the other familiar—primates will fixate longer on the novel one. If the hippocampus is damaged, as it is in Alzheimer’s, however, the subject spends equal time looking at each image.”

You can read the Scientific American article here.

Submit Your Posters Now for the May 5, 2015 IOA Retreat

Registration is open for the IOA’s May 5 Sylvan M. Cohen 2015 Annual Retreat: “Aging with Financial Security: Addressing the Challenges of Cognitive Aging and Impairment.” Poster submission is now open as well. Click here to submit your poster information. Deadline for poster submission is April 24.

A fear of the future: Researchers find that the prospect of decline – not the label of “Alzheimer’s disease”- drives negative feelings about a person with dementia

A study has uncovered what causes people to experience stigmatizing reactions to persons with Alzheimer’s disease dementia.

Researchers –including Rebecca Johnson, M.A. Princeton University Department of Sociology, Jason Karlawish, MD, associate director of the Penn Memory Center, Pamela Sankar, PhD of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and Kristin Harkins, research coordinator at the Penn Memory Center — presented these results at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in November 2014.

“This project on Alzheimer’s stigma was sparked by an observation,” says Johnson. “Although researchers, clinicians and the public often talk about how those with Alzheimer’s face stigma, there was a lack of clarity about what features of Alzheimer’s prompt stigmatizing reactions in others.”

The online experiment with 800 adults from the U.S. general population had participants read a story about a patient with symptoms that described mild stage dementia. Participants were randomized to one of nine unique stories that differed in two key features: the disease label (“Alzheimer’s” versus “traumatic brain injury” versus no label), and the prognosis (“symptoms will get better” versus “stay the same” versus “worsen”). Next, the participants answered questions about their attitudes towards the person in the story, such as what emotions they felt and whether they thought the patient’s friends would start to distance themselves from the patient.

All participants read a story about a man with mild stage dementia, but some read that his disabilities were caused by Alzheimer’s while others read that that they were caused by brain injury or they did not have a cause. And the prognosis varied as well. These variations in the label and the prognosis allowed the researchers to test whether the disease label or the prognosis drive stigmatizing reactions.

Learning that the dementia symptoms were caused by Alzheimer’s didn’t prompt more stigmatizing responses than from the other possible causes. In short, the disease label did not influence stigma. Instead, stigmatizing reactions were more likely from people whose story described that the patient’s symptoms would get worse.

The study suggests that one of the best ways to minimize stigmatizing reactions for Alzheimer’s patients is to emphasize the range of clinical outcomes and prognoses people may have. The researchers concluded that it is also important that public messaging around Alzheimer’s should reflect the broad range of levels of the disease rather than just the most severe cases. Most importantly, the results suggest the need to understand the potential for stigma in persons in the “pre-clinical” stage of the disease. This stage — which is still under study and not yet used in clinical practice — describes an asymptomatic person who has Alzheimer’s biomarker pathology. It is a stage defined by prognosis and if this study of stigma is correct, then people with the label may experience stigma.

To listen to a recording of the presentation at the APHA meeting, click here.

In Alzheimer’s Cases, Financial Ruin and Abuse Are Always Lurking

In a Wealth Matters column in The New York Times, stories from financial advisers illuminate the challenges for patients and their families. You can read the column here.

Watch the Alzheimer’s Research Summit on February 9 and 10

Watch the Alzheimer’s‬ Research Summit live on Feb 9 and 10 at and follow on Twitter @ADSummit15 for highlights.

According to the National Institute on Aging, “The central goal of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2015 is to continue the development of an integrated multidisciplinary research agenda necessary to address critical knowledge gaps and accelerate the discovery and delivery of effective treatments for Alzheimer’s patients at all stages of disease.”
For more information about the Summit, click here.

PMC is Moving to the Penn Neuroscience Center

On February, 23, 2015, the Penn Memory Center at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine will be moving down the hall to the new Penn Neuroscience Center.

Our address remains the same:

Penn Memory Center at the Penn Neuroscience Center
Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
3400 Civic Center Boulevard, South Pavilion, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19104


Save the Date! Institute on Aging’s Sylvan M. Cohen 2015 Annual Retreat

Join us on May 5, 11:30am – 5:00pm, for the Institute on Aging’s Sylvan M. Cohen 2015 Annual Retreat:  “Aging with Financial Security: Addressing the Challenges of Cognitive Aging and Impairment.” 

A rapidly aging U.S. population means older adults’ financial well-being and security is becoming an urgent public health concern.  The five million people living with Alzheimer’s disease dementia are vulnerable to financial abuse or exploitation, or bad financial decisions. In addition, age-related cognitive changes also put older adults at risk. These problems are especially significant as older adults may have limited time or capacity to recover financial losses. “Aging with Financial Security: Addressing the Challenges of Cognitive Aging and Impairment” will examine the nature and scope of the problem, its challenges, and possible solutions. Experts in adult protective service, academics, advocacy and government will present cutting edge research and innovative solutions to support the financial well-being of older adults.

For more information email or call 215-898-7801.

The deadline to participate in the poster session is April 24, 2015.

Art for Alzheimer’s

Philly Voice recently published a feature about ARTZ Philadelphia’s program to connect dementia patients with art, and its partnership with the Penn Memory Center.  Felicia Greenfield, associate director for clinical and research operations at the Penn Memory Center, was interviewed for the article about funding issues in Alzheimer’s research and care.

To read the article, click here.


Complexities of Choosing End-of-Life Strategies for Those with Dementia

A New York Times article looks at the debate about whether people who develop dementia can use “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking” (VSED ) or other strategies to end their lives by including such instructions in an advance directive.

Dementia rates and numbers have begun a steep ascent, already afflicting an estimated 30 percent of those older than 85. Baby boomers are receiving a firsthand view of the disease’s devastation and burdens as they care for aging parents.

To read the article, click here.

Philadelphia Inquirer Features PMC’s A4 Study

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Stacey Burling interviewed Penn Memory Center research participants and clinicians in her article about the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4) Study, entitled “The risk of knowing: Alzheimer’s research volunteers.

The A4 Study is a historic clinical trial to see if an experimental drug can protect healthy seniors whose brains harbor silent signs that they’re at risk.  Ms. Burling spoke with Myrna Roach and Donald Jackson about why they chose to enroll in the study. She also spoke with Jason Karlawish, MD, associate director of the PMC about his A4 sub study which measures how disclosure of study participants’ amyloid status impacts them.

You can read the article here.

Interested in enrolling in the A4 study? Click here for more information.


Penn Memory Center Launches Brain Health Research Registry

The Penn Memory Center has launched a new Brain Health Research Registry.  By enrolling in the Penn Memory Center’s Brain Health Research Registry you can play a vital role in research. The Registry serves as the research recruitment resource for investigators at the Penn Memory Center who are studying brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, which affects over 5 million people in the US.

The Penn Memory Center Brain Health Research Registry is a confidential database that is made up of people like you who have volunteered to consider participation in research studies. We will contact you periodically with a list of research studies that you may consider joining. Participation is always optional and all information is kept confidential.

For more information, please contact Tigist Hailu, Coordinator for Diversity in Research, at or 215-573-6095. You can download a Brain Health Research Registry card here.


Philadelphia Tribune Features Penn Memory Center

A recent Philadelphia Tribune article highlights Penn Memory Center and their work towards raising awareness of Alzheimer’s‬ Disease in the African American community. You can read the article here.

Writing the Medical Narrative

Writer Deborah Fries, a contributor to Penn Memory Center’s InSight newsletter and the website, is teaching an online class, “Writing the Medical Narrative,” this winter through the Loft Literary Center.

“Medical narratives are often passports to otherness, transporting us deep into the far country of an illness,” Ms. Fries says.  “And like all good travel writing, they rely heavily on description to delineate a foreign terrain or to resonate with those who have already traveled there.”

“To understand the otherness of an illness or the unseen microscopic works of the body,” she adds, “writers rely on figurative language. The poetic metaphors, similes, and practical analogies that we make give our writing its tone, its heft—and most of all, its agency to affect the reader.”

To learn more about the class, visit the Loft Literary Center.


Alzheimer’s Accountability Act Incorporated into Funding Bill Signed into Law

Congress has created a formal process to ensure that scientific judgment will guide them in future Alzheimer’s research funding. The  Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, which was fully incorporated within the fiscal year 2015 funding bill signed into law by the President on December 17, 2014, ensures that funding levels determined by Congress are based on scientific recommendations of the National Institutes of Health. Funding for Alzheimer’s research was also increased by $25 million through this bill.

“In setting funding levels, Congress has told us that they want to hear directly from the nation’s top scientists. That’s exactly what the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act does by connecting scientists with appropriators,” said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association. “The Alzheimer’s Association urged the introduction and passage of this Act so that Congress understands what science will bring us to the day when there will be survivors of Alzheimer’s, just as there now are for the other major diseases in our country.”

For more information, click here.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Health Equity Symposium

MLK_invite_Jan15Please join the university community in commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy on January 15, 2015 at noon in the Arthur H. Rubenstein Auditorium at the Smilow Center for Translational Research. This is the first in a series of talks celebrating the Perelman School of Medicine’s 250th anniversary that will address disparities through dialogue, with the goal of achieving health equity for all in the next 250 years.

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


For more information, click here.

Jason Karlawish, MD Visits Studios of “Second Opinion” for Television Taping

Jason Karlawish, MD, Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center visited the Rochester, NY studios of Second Opinion for an in-depth discussion about one woman’s experience with her mother’ s decline into Alzheimer’s disease, and the signs that were missed or symptoms that were ignored.

The current standard of care or those with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Karlawish says, is “education and counseling of the patient and family; symptomatic treatment of the disease and longitudinal follow-up at least every six months to assess rate of progression.”

Second Opinion airs on public television stations through the country. You can view the episode here.

Alzheimer’s is Greater Public Health Crisis than Ebola

David Satcher, MD, former director of the CDC and former Surgeon General, writes in The Hill, “Our nation is facing a far more dangerous public health crisis than Ebola, and the response has been altogether inadequate.”

“While Ebola is a potential disaster in the United States we must address decisively, Alzheimer’s disease is already today a deadly disaster for millions of American families that we have largely ignored. It is a threat to both public health and to our economy. That is what should frighten people,” he adds.

To read the full article, please click here.

How Old is Too Old? Two Ethicists Debate Quality of Life as We Age

What happens when you bring two medical ethicists together to discuss what it means to age with quality of life? A fascinating debate ensues.  On WHYY FM recently, two medical ethicists discussed and debated what quality of life means as we age. You can listen to Jason Karlawish, MD, Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center, and Zeke Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, on WHYY”S The Pulse.


What’s Good For Your Heart is Good For Your Brain

On Saturday, November 22, 2014, over 150 people from the Philadelphia community joined Penn Memory Center and First Corinthian Baptist Church in West Philadelphia for their Cognitive Health Fair.

The fair, which was a collaborative effort between the Center (PMC) and one of their research participants and Community Advisory Board members, Ms. Elsie Shelton, targeted local seniors to educate them on the importance of blending a healthy diet, physical exercise, and social and mental engagement to maintain both cognitive and heart health. After all, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain.

The day kicked off with words of appreciation from Pastor Thomas of First Corinthian Baptist Church and Dr. Jason Karlawish, Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center. The fair provided a variety of services to the community including:

  • free glaucoma screenings from the Scheie Eye Institute
  • blood pressure screenings and health education materials from Penn Geriatric’s Nurse Practitioner Johanne Louis
  • giveaways and education materials provided by Penn Dental students
  • healthy brain aging handouts and research opportunities from Penn Memory Center
  • caregiver support resources from Jean Kirkley of Boomer R Heroes
  • educational materials about AD and caregiver support from Rev. Barbara Jones of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
  • information about the Philadelphia Games which is an Olympic style event for people 50 years of age and older distributed by the City’s Parks and Recreation

For more information please contact Tigist Hailu at .