Dr. Ronald C. Petersen
Photo: Mayo Clinic
Dr. Ronald C. Petersen of the Mayo Clinic is a leading expert in the early detection of subtle brain changes that signal the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. His goal: to identify the biomarkers and imaging tools that may one day lead to therapies to prevent or treat the neurodegenerative disease that currently affects as many as 5 million Americans. His talk, “Neuroimaging and Biomarkers: How Early Can We Diagnose Alzheimer’s?” will be delivered at the memorial lecture in honor of NIA founding director Dr. Robert N. Butler on Wednesday, May 8 at 3 p.m. at Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10.
“We know that Alzheimer’s-related brain changes may occur 10 to 15 years before symptoms appear,” said Petersen, director of the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Mayo Study of Aging in Rochester, Minn. “To have an impact on this devastating disorder, we must be able to detect Alzheimer’s in pre-symptomatic people. “
Petersen is deeply involved in two major studies under way in this regard: the Mayo Study of Aging and the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, both supported significantly by NIH. Petersen’s lecture will focus on the latest data and insights from the Mayo Study, which follows a random sample of some 3,000 older volunteers, using imaging and fluid biomarkers to track whether they transition from normal cognition to mild cognitive impairment to dementia over the years.
Petersen is a member of NIA’s National Advisory Council on Aging and chairs the Advisory Council on Research, Care and Services for the National Alzheimer’s Project Act. He received a Ph.D. degree in experimental psychology from the University of Minnesota and served as a research psychologist at the U.S. Army Biomedical Research Laboratory. He graduated from Mayo Medical School and interned in medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. He returned to Mayo Clinic to complete a residency in neurology, which was followed by a fellowship in behavioral neurology at Harvard University Medical School/Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.
The lecture honors Butler, renowned gerontologist, psychiatrist and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Why Survive? Being Old in America. He championed aging and Alzheimer’s research as the first NIA director from 1976 to 1982. Butler died July 4, 2010.—Peggy Vaughn