Emilie T. Reas (UCSD) and Tara Tracy (Buck Institute) each receive $750,000 to lead transformative research in the field of cognitive aging
The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) and the McKnight Brain Research Foundation (MBRF) are pleased to announce the 2022 recipients of The McKnight Brain Research Foundation Innovator Awards in Cognitive Aging and Memory Loss: Emily T. Reas, PhD, of the University of California San Diego (UCSD), and Tara Tracy, PhD, of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
Now in its second year, the Innovator Awards aim to build a cadre of outstanding research scientists across the United States to lead transformative research in the field of cognitive aging.
Emily T. Reas, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Residence, Neurosciences, at the University of California San Diego. With the support of this award, Dr. Reas will investigate the mediating role of blood-brain barrier dysfunction in effects of systemic inflammation on brain microstructure and memory.
Dr. Reas’ research program aims to optimize trajectories of brain aging by clarifying the risk factors for, and pathways towards, cognitive decline. A complementary goal is to develop more sentitive markers of early brain changes that precipitate cognitive decline in order to identify individuals at greatest risk for dementia. To this end, Dr. Reas’ lab employs a multimodal approach, integrating cutting-edge brain imaging methods with behavioral testing, genetics, and fluid measures. By focusing on human participants without manifest cognitive impairment, Dr. Reas hopes her research will translate directly to clinical settings for early disease detection and therapeutic intervention.
Tara Tracy, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Gerontology at the University of Southern California Leonard David School of Gerontology. With the support of this award, Dr. Tracy will investigate the role of KIBRA, a protein found in neurons that plays an important role in the normal function of synapses during the formation of new memories, in age-related memory loss.
This research builds on Dr. Tracy’s study of synapses, the small specialized structures that form where neurons connect with each other in the brain to transmit information. Synapses are critical for the encoding of new memories in the brain. In her ongoing research, Dr. Tracy aims to establish how the levels of KIBRA protein found in synapses can affect the susceptibility of an individual to memory loss in aging.
Funding the Next Generation of Cognitive Aging Research Scientists
Dr. Reas and Dr. Tracy will each receive $750,000 for an award period of three years. The MBRF Innovator Awards in Cognitive Aging and Memory Loss are supported by a $4.5 million grant from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation and will support six investigators over a period of five years.
“The Innovator Awards in Cognitive Aging and Memory Loss are an extension of the Foundation’s mission to support the next generation of world-class scientists in the field of cognitive aging and memory loss,” said Michael Dockery, MD, Chair of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation board of trustees.
“Understanding cognitive decline as we age remains an understudied area of research, and with Dr. Reas and Dr. Tracy already showing the potential to become leaders in the field, we look forward to seeing the impact their research will have in helping us better understand and alleviate the effects of age-related cognitive decline and memory loss,” Dr. Dockery continued.
AFAR has long supported the careers of talented investigators and research on cognitive health. “By providing research funding, AFAR and MRBF are building a cadre of outstanding research scientists across the United States who have the potential to lead transformative research in the field of cognitive aging,” said Stephanie Lederman, EdM, Executive Director, AFAR.