Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Cores
NYU Langone’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center comprises nine research groups, or cores, each with one or more core leaders. The cores work in synergy with each other and with other divisions and departments at NYU Langone to achieve the shared goals of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
The Administrative Core supervises and coordinates all activities of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. This includes facilitating integration between each of the nine cores to ensure a high level of scientific collaboration, cooperation, and progress toward achieving the center’s goals.
The Administrative Core also oversees the selection and funding of innovative developmental projects led by early-career investigators. These pilot studies fulfill an essential component of our mission—to train and mentor a new generation of leaders in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research.
Core Leader: Thomas M. Wisniewski, MD
Associate Core Leader: Karyn D. Marsh, PhD
The Clinical Core is the central hub of our center, working closely with the other cores to recruit, maintain, and comprehensively evaluate a clinically and demographically diverse cohort of approximately 500 volunteer research participants. The Clinical Core cohort comprises one of the longest-running and largest longitudinal studies of brain aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementias.
Through annual cognitive assessments, neurological exams, analysis of biological samples, and periodic brain imaging—including MRI and PET scans—the study aims to identify, understand, and trace the mechanisms that influence the transitions from normal brain aging to preclinical disease, subjective cognitive decline (SCD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), early dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Clinicians and researchers are also working to understand how factors including lifestyle, environment, genetics, cardiovascular health, and even the microbiome may distinguish those who experience healthy brain aging from those who experience cognitive decline. Some of these factors are also implicated in Alzheimer’s disease heterogeneity, such that patients with the disease often have different combinations of brain pathologies and varying patterns of disease progression.
The work of the Clinical Core supports broader research efforts outside the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, in part through close connections with the clinical trials program within the Center for Cognitive Neurology. As appropriate, study volunteers are offered opportunities to participate in clinical trials, biomarker studies, and other research programs, both within NYU Langone and beyond. Volunteers in the Clinical Core make a lasting impact on Alzheimer’s disease research by participating in our Brain Donation Program.
The Clinical Core has an esteemed history of contributions to the field of Alzheimer’s disease staging and related cognitive assessments. Notably, the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) and Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) were pioneered at NYU Langone, as were the first global assessment scales of cognitive ability and behavioral symptoms, the Brief Cognitive Ratings Scale (BCRS) and the Behavioral Pathology in Alzheimer's Disease Rating Scale (BEHAVE-AD). In recent years, our clinicians and researchers have forged new research pathways to improve characterization of the stages of Alzheimer’s disease, using digital tools to explore subtle shifts in motor or sensory performance as potential early indicators or predictors of cognitive decline.
Core Leader: Arjun V. Masurkar, MD, PhD
Associate Core Leader: Joshua Chodosh, MD
Emeritus Core Leader: Barry Reisberg, MD
Data Management and Statistics Core
The Data Management and Statistics Core serves as the central data hub for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, performing data management and analysis across all nine cores. Core staff also coordinate and manage all data needs for individual research projects and for affiliated studies.
The team maintains a centralized database and offers consultation and hands-on help in experimental design and statistical analysis to all collaborating investigators. This centralization allows investigators to benefit from access to a range of sophisticated and flexible statistical and computer tools beyond what is typically available for any single project. This approach also fosters data sharing among investigators at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and within other divisions at NYU Langone.
The core also ensures timely submission of data and biological specimens to national repository and develops rigorous statistical methods and novel study designs to facilitate integration of various outcomes and research findings to manifest scientific insight, enhance clinical relevance of all studies, and magnify the combined impact of the overall research at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
Core Leaders: Yongzhao Shao, PhD
Associate Core Leaders: Rebecca Betensky, PhD, and Alok Vedvyas, MS, MSJ
The Neuropathology Core oversees our Brain Donation Program, which is open to Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center study participants. Working in concert with the Administrative, Clinical, Biomarker, Neuroimaging, and Data Management and Statistics Cores, the Neuropathology Core team performs postmortem brain examinations (brain autopsies) and full neuropathological assessments, including imaging and biomarker analyses, for patients enrolled in the Brain Donation Program. Comprehensive diagnostic results are provided to patients’ families, and donated tissue is stored and utilized to support our research efforts. Additional biospecimens are contributed to national Alzheimer’s disease databanks as well our brain bank, where they are made available on a limited basis to support the work of brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease researchers around the globe.
Postmortem brain specimens are also studied using 3T MRI whole-brain microscopy that provides detailed characterization of the brain anatomy with submillimeter resolution and contrast comparable with histologic atlases. Specially designed MRI sequences enable efficient image acquisitions using clinical 3T MRI systems.
Researchers affiliated with the Neuropathology Core also maintain an independent research agenda, with a focus on developing proteomic methodologies to better understand the diverse pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, along with novel therapeutic approaches, including vaccination, to prevent disease progression.
Core Leader: Thomas M. Wisniewski, MD
Associate Core Leaders: Arline Faustin, MD, and Christopher M. William, MD, PhD
Outreach, Recruitment, and Engagement Core
The Outreach, Recruitment, and Engagement (ORE) Core develops and directs public education, outreach, and training activities for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. The core is active in the communities we serve throughout New York City, providing educational seminars about brain aging, memory changes, and Alzheimer’s disease to older adults and their family members, as well as training sessions and research lectures for healthcare professionals, social service providers, and research scientists both in the community and at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. This outreach helps us recruit new participants for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and to retain existing study participants.
Core staff also direct our Multicultural Program, which facilitates access to community education on brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease, diagnostic services, and research opportunities among ethnically diverse patient populations throughout New York City. The Multicultural Program team provides bilingual educational materials and cognitive screenings in the community setting and ensures the availability of bilingual clinicians and staff for our study participants who need or prefer a Spanish-speaking care team.
Core Leader: Joshua Chodosh, MD
Associate Core Leader: Karyn D. Marsh, PhD
The Neuroimaging Core is a global resource for imaging tools and metrics to study brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease. The core supports basic and clinical neuroimaging research to better understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that drive the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This includes imaging for the Clinical Core as well as other center-based and affiliated studies.
MRI and PET have revolutionized our understanding of the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the earliest visualizations of key markers of Alzheimer’s disease, including reduced brain metabolism and reduced hippocampal volume, took place at NYU Langone. Today, our researchers and clinicians continue this tradition of neuroimaging innovation. In alignment with the broader goals of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, the core focuses on developing novel imaging techniques and analytics to identify brain changes associated with the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as those associated with the transitions between stages. Our team has made significant contributions in this area, including demonstrating how imaging modalities can enhance the predictive power of biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease in cerebrospinal fluid.
We perform our imaging exams using a hybrid MR/PET system, joining Stanford University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center as one of only two National Institute on Aging (NIA)–sponsored Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers to employ this technique. With MR/PET, standard 3T MRI is acquired simultaneously with amyloid beta PET and tau PET images. This technique not only provides diagnostic insight needed for the assessment and prognostic evaluation of the aging brain, but obtains all required information with fewer visits, which is more convenient for patients and caregivers and reduces radiation exposure.
The Neuroimaging Core is an active contributor to the collaborative NIA-supported research effort. We share well-characterized datasets with the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC), which serves as the clearinghouse of standardized clinical and neuropathological research data freely available to all scientists. Our MR/PET imaging hardware and protocol are certified by NACC’s Standardized Centralized Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Neuroimaging (SCAN).
We perform and interpret all MRI and PET exams for our volunteer research participants. These images and those from other studies are standardized according to our imaging protocols and maintained in the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center database, which is accessible to other cores and collaborating researchers. We offer hardware, software, and automated workflows for efficient image processing and conduct research in machine learning to take advantage of the growing volume of imaging data. Our researchers offer guidance and training support for imaging investigators and work closely with the Administrative Core to fulfill imaging needs of early-career investigators.
Core Leader: Henry Rusinek, PhD
Associate Core Leader: Timothy M. Shepherd, MD, PhD
The Psychosocial Core conducts a comprehensive assessment of the primary caregivers of all subjects participating in the Clinical Core, as well as family members of those with MCI and Alzheimer’s disease. We follow caregivers longitudinally and provide them with counseling on request. Counselors from the Psychosocial Core conduct conferences with research volunteers, primary caregivers if appropriate, and other family members at the conclusion of every diagnostic evaluation in the clinical core.
Our counseling staff is available to respond to requests for help and information and acts as a link between center research volunteers and other center staff. We recruit new volunteers and retain current volunteers. The Psychosocial Core facilitates the development of new treatment and care strategies and the investigation of the impact of living with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders on the person with the illness and the caregiving family.
Core Leader: Mary S. Mittelman, DrPH
Associate Core Leader: Tanya M. Spruill, PhD
The Biomarker Core advances the central goal our center—to identify and delineate the biomarkers associated with the transitions between normal brain aging, SCD, MCI, and early dementia. The Biomarker Core coordinates the collection, processing, and storage of biosamples from volunteer study participants and, in close coordination with the Clinical, Neuroimaging, and Neuropathology Cores, works to characterize the role of established biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease through each stage of disease progression.
PET imaging and cerebrospinal fluid analysis have revolutionized Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and monitoring, enabling the detection of biomarkers including beta-amyloid and tau during the prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers affiliated with the Biomarker Core are pushing the boundaries of early detection further still, developing next-generation assays for identifying biomarkers of preclinical disease in blood rather than cerebrospinal fluid—a critical step toward increasing the accessibility of Alzheimer’s disease screening and facilitating intervention at the earliest possible stage.
The Biomarker Core is also spearheading novel inquiries into biomarkers beyond amyloid and tau, probing the role of inflammation, vascular risk factors, and the microbiome in Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and progression.
The Biomarker Core helps facilitate cross-project partnerships and promote new research directions though sharing of data and biosamples with the NACC, National Centralized Repository for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (NCRAD), and with the research community, including investigators working on our affiliated studies.
Core Leaders: Thomas M. Wisniewski, MD, and Ricardo M. Osorio Suarez, MD
Research Education Component
The Research Education Component Core is the cornerstone of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center’s educational mission. Through ongoing educational programs and events, including the Research Education Component Scholars Program, the core fosters interdisciplinary training and mentoring for a demographically diverse and inclusive cohort of early-career scientists from various backgrounds in the fields of brain aging, neurodegeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease research.
Core programs pair young scientists with experienced clinical, basic, and translational investigators from institutes across NYU Langone, including its Clinical and Translational Science Institute and Neuroscience Institute, as well as from other Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers across the nation. Research Education Component Scholars Program participants are eligible for funding to support research-related expenses, and engage in career development and professional skill-building activities.
Core Leaders: Rebecca Betensky, PhD, and Girardin Jean-Louis, PhD
Program Supervisor: Zena Rockowitz, MSW, MPA