Healing memory: U Alzheimer’s Center to fill need for research and treatment

The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in the Intermountain West will increase dramatically within the next 20 years, Norman Foster, a professor of neurology, said.

In reaction to the steady increase, Foster is in the process of opening the Intermountain West’s first Alzheimer’s Center at the U.

“The Intermountain West area has been under-served,” said Foster. “This is an opportunity to open a new program with 21st-century methods.”

People in the Intermountain West region generally live longer, and the population is younger. Because of these factors, projections show that this area will have the largest increase in the number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the most common symptom of the disease, Foster said.

“One of the misunderstandings about Utah is that as the youngest state, it does not have a rapidly aging population,” said Mark Supiano, director of geriatric medicine.

Utah will soon be relatively equal in numbers to national age demographics, so programs for Alzheimer’s disease and geriatrics are in great need.

The center will focus on Alzheimer’s care, brain imaging and research of the disease.

The research will include looking at brain chemistry and how the disease has affected patients, Foster said.

“Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, but there are 90 other diseases that cause dementia as well,” he said.

The research part of the center will study the active parts of the brain, and its goal is to be able to identify the disease more easily.

“We couldn’t be in better hands,” said Karen Mara, administrator of the Alzheimer’s Center. “Dr. Foster has extensive clinical and research experience.”

Foster came to the U from the University of Michigan, where he was a professor of neurology and the director of the university’s Alzheimer’s disease program.

For research, the center will recruit four new staff members from various academic fields, including neurology.

“The U has focused so much attention on being a better research facility, and the Alzheimer’s Center will be a real plus,” Mara said.

Located in Research Park, the center will open sometime in the first quarter of next year.

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