New Scholarships Awarded to Advance Research on Cognitive Aging and Age-Related Memory Loss

Valerie PatmintraNews, Press Release

Matthew Burns, MD, PhD and Wai-Ying Wendy Yau, MD Named 2021 Recipients of the McKnight Clinical Translational Research Scholarship in Cognitive Aging and Age-Related Memory Loss

The McKnight Brain Research Foundation recently named Matthew Burns, MD, PhD and Wai-Ying Wendy Yau, MD as the 2021 recipients of the McKnight Clinical Translational Research Scholarship in Cognitive Aging and Age-Related Memory Loss. Drs. Burns and Yau will each receive $150,000 in funding from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation through the American Brain Foundation and the American Academy of Neurology to advance their research on cognitive aging and age-related memory loss.

Meet the Scholars

Matthew Burns, MD, PhDUniversity of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Dr. Burns’ project “Mesocorticolimbic Network Dysfunction and Modulation in Aging and Dopamine Loss,” will focus on the interaction of dopamine depletion and aging in brain-wide network dysfunction among neurodegenerative dementias, leading to memory, executive, and affective impairments. While the effects of decreased dopamine signaling in age-related dementias is currently poorly understood, Dr. Burns proposes that stimulation of the prefrontal cortex could be a useful treatment for patients suffering from cognitive impairment.

Wai-Ying Wendy Yau, MDMassachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
With growing urgency to find factors to slow cognitive decline, the goal of Dr. Yau’s research is to discover the connections between early vascular risk and brain injury. With her project “Quantifying Vascular Contributions to Cognitive Aging Mediated by White Matter Injury and Tau,” Dr. Yau aims to identify plasma and neuroimaging biomarkers connecting higher vascular risk to poor cognition, with the ultimate goal of slowing the rate of cognitive decline and promote healthier brain aging. 

“We are thrilled to be funding the research of Dr. Burns and Dr. Yau as they both work toward new discoveries in understanding and preventing age-related cognitive decline and memory loss,” said Michael Dockery, MD, Chair of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation board of trustees. “Memory loss is a key factor in predicting quality of life for aging adults. With estimates showing that by 2030, nearly 25 percent of Americans will be 65 or older with millions of them suffering from some form of memory loss, uncovering how to slow and prevent cognitive decline has the potential to immensely benefit society by helping older adults age successfully.”

Since 2018, the McKnight Brain Research Foundation has funded annually two McKnight Clinical Translational Research Scholarships (CTRS) in Cognitive Aging and Age-Related Memory Loss through the American Brain Foundation and the American Academy of Neurology. The McKnight scholars represent the best and brightest early career physician scientists, and their projects have been vetted and selected by the American Academy of Neurology’s Science Committee and three Donor Trustees of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation. 

Each McKnight scholarship consists of a commitment of $65,000 per year for two years, plus $10,000 per year to support formal education in clinical research methodology. To date, eight clinician scientists have received McKnight scholarships, and two new researchers will be awarded in 2022. Together, their interdisciplinary research projects are advancing the understanding of age-related cognitive decline and memory loss. 

The 2022 application period will open on July 1, 2021 and the application deadline is October 1, 2021. To learn more about the scholarship and how to apply, please visit: www.mcknightbrain.org/mcknight-scholarship/

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