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National Brain Imaging Study on Alzheimer's Disease Underway at UC San Diego Shiley-Marcos Center


February 09, 2006  |  

Study is Largest, Most Comprehensive of Its Kind

San Diego, CA -- The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center will be part of the five-year, $60 million Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a landmark research study to identify brain and other biological changes associated with memory decline, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today.

The project was begun by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the NIH and is supported by more than a dozen other federal agencies and private-sector companies and organizations, making it the largest public-private partnership on brain research underway at the NIH.  Investigators at 58 sites across the United States and Canada are involved with the study, which is being led by Leon Thal, MD, chair of the UCSD Department of Neurosciences and director of UCSD’s Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center; Michael Weiner, MD, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco; and Ronald Petersen, MD, PhD, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.

The goal of the initiative is to speed up the search for treatments and cures for Alzheimer’s disease by seeing whether imaging of the brain –  through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scans conducted every six months – can help predict and monitor the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. In addition, samples of blood and, for some participants, cerebral spinal fluid will be collected and tested to determine if these biomarkers can predict and monitor the disease. It is hoped that imaging techniques and biomarkers will prove useful in testing the effectiveness of new therapies in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s or preventing the disease altogether.  

The NIH is seeking 800 men and women between the ages of 55 and 90 to participate in the ADNI study.  Researchers are looking for people who are in good general health with no memory problems, or are in good general health but have memory problems or concerns, or have a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s disease.

Patients seeking more information about the study in the San Diego area should contact the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at 858-622-5800; the NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education & Referral (ADEAR) Center at 800-438-4380 or visit  Spanish-language capabilities are available at some of the study sites.

Alzheimer’s disease affects one in 10 Americans over the age of 65. By the year 2050, 13 million Americans may suffer from the disease. 

A special aspect of this project is the support of Maya Angelou, the eminent poet, author, educator and historian.  Angelou, a professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, is working with the researchers to ask the public to take part in the study.  She will support the national ADNI recruitment outreach campaign, “Imagine Stopping the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease,” by appearing in radio and print public service announcements.  Angelou has a number of friends who have suffered the effects of Alzheimer’s.

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The national NIH release distributed today is available on:

B-roll and sound bites related to the study will be fed on AMC4 / (c) 17 (dl4140H) on February 14, 2006, from 14:00-14:30 EST and again on IA5 / 19 (c) (dl4080V) on February 15, 2006, from 13:30-14:00 EST.  If you miss the feed and need a hard copy, please contact Amy Lange at 202-745-5100 or

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BACKGROUND: UC San Diego’s Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center was named in recognition of a $4 million gift from philanthropists Donald and Darlene Shiley, and in honor of Dee Marcos, mother of Darlene Shiley. 

Founded in 1984, UCSD’s ADRC was one of the nation’s original five Alzheimer’s centers established by the National Institute on Aging.   Dr. Leon Thal was named director in 1994.  The Center has been instrumental in making a number of discoveries regarding biological and clinical aspects of the disease, including identifying new targets for therapy. As part of its mission, the Shiley-Marcos ADRC also provides patient evaluation, community outreach and education, and access to clinical trials for various interventions.


Media Contact: Debra Kain, 619-543-6163,

UC San Diego Health Sciences Communications HealthBeat: News

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