Behavioral Research in Aging, Neuroscience, Cognition, and Health

Biomarkers, Brain, & Cognition in Aging

Our lab has conducted several studies connecting markers of health to the brain and cognitive function in older adults with and without dementia in collaboration with the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Kansas City. The biomarkers we have considered include genetic markers (BDNF, TOMM40, Haplogroup J), body composition (lean body mass, BMI, waist circumference, bone density), blood pressure, insulin and glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides, and inflammatory markers. When several of these risk factors combine individuals develop Metabolic Syndrome which may be modified by diet and exercise. Metabolic Syndrome increases risk of diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. Several papers from our lab on this topic are listed below:


Loskutova, N., Watts, A., & Burns, J. M. (2018). The cause-effect relationship between bone loss and Alzheimer’s disease using statistical modeling. Medical Hypotheses. DOI: 

Watts, A., Andrews, S., & Anstey, K. (2018). Sex differences in the impact of BDNF genotype on the longitudinal relationship between physical activity and cognitive performance. Gerontology. DOI: 10.1159/000486369.

Watts, A., Honea, R., Billinger, S., Hutfles, L., Vidoni, E., Rhyner, K., & Burns, J. (2015). A combined measure of vascular risk for white matter lesions. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 45, 187-193.

Watts, A., Loskutova, N., Johnson, D. K., & Burns, J. (2013). Metabolic syndrome and cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s disease and healthy older adults. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 35, 253-265.

Burns, J. M., Johnson, D. K., Watts, A., Swerdlow, R., & Brooks, W. M. (2010). Reduced lean mass in early Alzheimer disease and its association with brain atrophy. Archives of Neurology, 67(4), 428-433.

Watts, A., Crimmins, E. M., & Gatz, M. (2008). Inflammation as a potential mediator for the association between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 4(5), 865-876.


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