Krikorian is Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience and Director of the Cognitive Aging Program at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center. His clinical and research interests include changes in cognition with aging, the influence of health conditions on memory decline and risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and interventional approaches to forestall progression of neurodegeneration. His current research involves investigations of the effects of dietary manipulation and non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as berry fruit supplementation, on neurocognitive function in middle-aged and older adults. Funding for his research has come from the National Institutes of Health and from foundation and industry sources.
Interventions in Cognitive Aging
Alzheimer’s disease might be counted among the chronic age-related disease conditions along with several others such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes. In developed, Western cultures, the prevalence of dementia is expected to increase dramatically in parallel with the increasing prevalence of obesity and related cardiovascular risks. The diseases of civilization develop over long periods and have shared fundamental pathophysiological mechanisms. Metabolic dysfunction and inflammation represent two of the more important factors contributing to cognitive aging and dementia.
In particular, peripheral compensatory hyperinsulinemia is the basis for a host of pathological mechanisms involved in neurodegeneration, including central hypoinsulinemia, increased beta-amyloid production, increased inflammation mediated by pro-inflammatory cytokines, and reduced hippocampal neuronal signaling. Nutraceutical interventions that influence metabolism and inflammation have the potential to reduce risk for progression to dementia when initiated with subjects with pre-dementia conditions such as Mild Cognitive Impairment, the precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
We report data from a series of pilot studies involving interventions designed to influence metabolic function and reduce inflammation in older adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Initial results from these studies indicated improved memory function following brief to moderate-term treatment. Berry fruit supplementation, in particular, holds promise as a preventive intervention because of the multiple benefits associated with berry fruit consumption, including enhanced metabolic function and modulation of inflammation.