2017-2018 Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases Research Award*

Empathic Transfer of Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction

VCoA*The Virginia Center on Aging which administers the Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases Research Award Fund for the Commonwealth of Virginia, provides seed money to researchers in Virginia to stimulate innovative research into biomedical and psychosocial aspects of dementia, including cell biology, caregiving, and animal modeling.


Empathic Transfer of Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction

Zhiyi Zuo, MD, PhD

University of Virginia

Caregiving spouses of patients with dementia have an increased chance of suffering from dementia.  Although the mechanism of this phenomenon is not clear, increased stress due to caregiving and similar living environments are thought to contribute to it. Postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) is a relatively new but well-documented clinical entity that affects patients after heart and non-heart surgeries. POCD not only affects patients’ daily activity but also predicts high mortality. Recent studies from the investigator’s laboratory and others have indicated that inflammation in the brain, an abnormal process for many chronic brain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, may be involved in POCD. Preliminary data showed that mice living in the same cage with mice that have surgery also develop neuroinflammation and POCD.  In this project, the investigator will determine how this empathic transfer works and which brain regions are activated in the cage-mates of the mice with surgery. These studies have a significant implication for bystander health and will help us understand how caregiving spouses of patients with dementia may develop dementia as well.

(Dr. Zuo may be contacted at 434-924-2283, zz3c@virginia.edu)

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