Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative brain disease that currently effects more than 5 million people in the United States and is under-recognized as the sixth leading cause of death in our country. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in ages 65 and older, younger people are being diagnosed with increased frequency. Alzheimer’s destroys memories but also causes brain changes that can be even more devastating including loss of language, spatial orientation, interpersonal acumen, judgment, personality, and organizational skills. As pathological changes accumulate in the brain, individuals slowly lose their identity, lose their sense of self.
While patients may display limited insight into their own symptoms (anosognosia), caregivers suffer the tremendous burden, both physical and emotional, associated with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The impact that Alzheimer’s has on families and caregivers cannot be underestimated.
The first step in managing a patient with a neurocognitive disorder is to establish a diagnosis. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, other diseases can cause similar symptoms. An appropriate clinical work-up may involve neuroimaging studies, laboratory tests, neurological, and neuropsychological evaluations. An accurate diagnosis helps clinicians to more effectively manage patients by avoiding inappropriate medications and enhancing the efficacy of available therapies.
Critical to long-term treatment is an early diagnosis. Improved diagnostic tools have enhanced our ability to understand the earliest phases, or even the prodromal phases, of Alzheimer’s disease. New classifications such as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) establish a framework for clinicians to coordinate a longer-term management plan that may anticipate future decline while also trying to maintain current levels of functioning.
Although we do not currently have a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the humanistic instinct to alleviate suffering drives us to push for newer, more effective treatment alternatives. Since 2005, the Neurological Research Center (NRC) has worked to develop the expertise necessary to conduct leading-edge clinical trials. Hattiesburg Clinic has uniquely provided the infrastructure necessary to run these complex protocols. Reimagining the NRC as the research component of Memory Center has led to a seamless interaction between clinical care and research objectives.
Facility and Resources
Located within the Hattiesburg Clinic, a physician-owned group practice with over 250 providers, Memory Center is supported by dedicated, experienced staff who are committed to patient care, as well as the realization of research goals. Clinical trial activities are supported by skilled personnel who are trained on specific protocol requirements including study coordination, data/resource management, psychometric/cognitive assessment, administrative/financial oversight, laboratory assistance, and technological support (neuro-imaging).
Memory Center resources include:
- On-site, full service, certified laboratory (-70o C freezer, dry ice, centrifuge)
- On-site, full service pharmacy
- On-site Imaging Department (3.0 and 1.5 T MRI scanners, PET, SPECT, CT)
- Secure, dedicated research space
The main campus of Hattiesburg Clinic is located directly across the street from Forrest General Hospital, a 512 bed, level II Regional Trauma Center and a DNV Certified Stroke Facility.
Outpatient and inpatient resources are available for participation in all phases of clinical trials (I, II, III, IV).