Dr. Michael Tobia (Principal Investigator), Dr. Matthew Sutherland (Mentor), and Dr. Angela Laird (Co-Investigator) were awarded funding from The Research Center in Minority Institutions at Florida International University to investigate health disparities among aging individuals.
The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias among racial/ethnic minority groups represents a national health disparity, which is particularly relevant to the population of South Florida. Olfactory loss, defined as reduced sensory acuity and cognitive functioning involving the sense of smell, is a well-established prodromal biomarker of cognitive impairment associated with AD and other dementias. Research has shown there is a significant racial/ethnic disparity in olfactory ability such that the age of onset and rate of decline among Hispanics and African Americans parallels the disparity with respect to AD prevalence. A brain-based assessment that probes the integrity of olfactory-related brain regions and brain networks may provide prognostic insight into olfactory dysfunction or disease trajectory which pre-dates the onset of overt sensory and/or neurocognitive impairments, and would allow for early/preventive health programs to intervene more successfully. This pilot project represents the first step in a research program aiming to discover the impact of health disparity on brain function, with the ultimate goal of identifying prognostic brain-based biomarkers for AD and dementia among the racially and ethnically diverse aging population residing in the South Florida region.