I stopped in at the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute today to sign up for their Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention (WRAP). The institute is part of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, the capitol of Wisconsin.
In 2001, WRAP staff began collecting and recording information about the health, lifestyles, genes and cognitive status of adult children of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's. This information is made available to researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the Madison Veterans Administration Medical Center. More than 900 people (including control subjects with no family history of Alzheimer's disease) have signed up to participate in the registry, and some findings have already been released:
- 44% of WRAP participants have the APOE e4 gene that is associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (compared with 15% of control subjects)
- WRAP participants with the APOE e4 gene do not score significantly worse on neuropsychological tests of memory and cognitive function than those without the gene
- Moderate alcohol use and exercise are associated with slightly better performance on cognitive tests
- Brains of people whose parents had Alzheimer's react less to stimulation than brains of people with no family history of the disease.
If I'm accepted into the program, I will need to come back to Madison every four or five years so any changes in my health or cognitive status can be recorded. I may also have the opportunity to take part in future studies.
Adult children of Alzheimer's patients are eligible to participate in WRAP if they are between 40 and 65, and can document that a parent had Alzheimer's disease. I took a copy of my father's autopsy as proof that he had Alzheimer's, but if a parent is still living, medical records showing a clinical diagnosis would be required.
Nick Weber and Nicole Wright of Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute
During my appointment today, Research Specialists Nick Weber and Nicole Wright helped me fill out consent forms as well as a detailed health history. On Friday, I'll go to the University of Wisconsin Hospital to have blood drawn, blood pressure taken, etc. Then I'll go through two and a half hours of neuropsychological testing with Nicole. This should give me a better understanding of what Dad went through during his neurologist visits!