Mar 8, 2024

Highlighting the Sandra E. Black Award in Clinical Dementia Research on International Women’s Day

On this International Women’s Day 2024 TDRA is commemorating a pioneering researcher, clinician and scientist, Dr. Sandra Black, who has contributed significantly to the field of cognitive neurology - especially stroke and dementia, including associated mental health disorders - and has given back to those around her and following her, in so many ways.

The Sandra E. Black Award in Clinical Dementia Research is presented annually to a trainee in the University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine who is conducting clinical dementia research at a Toronto Dementia Research Alliance (TDRA) site. The award is to recognize the trainee’s contributions to an innovative research project.

This award is named after TDRA’s founding Executive Director Dr. Sandra Black, OC, O.Ont., MD, FRSC, who is also the director of the Dr. Sandra Black Centre for Brain Resilience & Recovery at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto.

Dr. Black is a world expert in dementia who is studying Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment from multiple angles by investigating the molecular biology of the brain, brain cell imaging, drug and biological therapies, and various interventional strategies. She has spent much of her career uncovering the relationship between the brain’s microvasculature and dementia.

Beyond her clinical practice, Dr. Black has given countless hours to organizations such as the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance, the Ontario Neurodegenerative Research Initiative, the Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration and Aging, the Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer Research, the International Society for Vascular Behavioural and Cognitive Disorders, the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, and the Ontario Stroke Network.

“I am very proud and humbled to have this annual TDRA award named after me. Providing concrete support in any way to encourage women (and men) to engage in science, and specifically dementia research, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career,” said Dr. Black.

Award Recipients to date:

Further information on the Sandra E. Black award as well as recipient biographies can be found here. 2024’s award to be announced shortly.

Research Updates

2023 Recipient Madeline Wood Alexander (Sunnybrook)

Research update:

Madeline’s PhD research investigates how age at menopause and vascular risk together influence cognition and Alzheimer’s disease brain pathology in postmenopausal women of South Asian, Chinese, and White ethnicity. Madeline is also currently pursuing studies that use large, longitudinal datasets to investigate how female-specific hormonal factors throughout the lifespan (including menopause, pregnancies, and medications) along with vascular and genetic factors together drive Alzheimer’s disease risk in women. These studies will provide a life-course perspective on factors that influence women’s brain health, shedding new light on sex-specific contributions to Alzheimer’s disease risk and progression. Madeline is supervised by Dr. Jennifer Rabin at Sunnybrook Research Institute.

2022 Recipient Durjoy Lahiri (Baycrest)

Research update:

Alzheimer's Disease is known to be caused by β-amyloid deposition in the brain. However, a considerable proportion of people with cognitive impairment consistent with Alzheimer’s Disease are not found to be Amyloid positive in their fluid biomarkers. Durjoy is pursuing how these two subgroups (amyloid positive and negative) of people differ in terms of clinical profile, brain imaging and plasma biomarkers. Several novel plasma biomarkers have been analyzed at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) as part of this study: β-amyloid 42/40, phospho tau 181, phospho tau 217, TDP-43, Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein and Neurofilament light chain. The results of this study will be critical in predicting amyloid positivity in people with clinical Alzheimer syndrome. This is going to be an important first step towards judicious allocation of biomarker resources as we stand on the cusp of having disease-modifying therapies approved in Canada.

2021 Recipient Veronica Vuong (Baycrest)

Research update:

Veronica Vuong’s research investigates how listening to autobiographically salient (ABS) music, defined as songs that prompt a specific memory of a person, location, or event, can improve memory in older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment (MCI). To achieve this, Veronica’s study will measure electrical brain activity using a neuroimaging method called electroencephalography. Understanding the brain mechanisms by which ABS music listening may promote changes in the brain and result in cognitive improvements is critical to establishing music-based interventions as a safe, low-cost, feasible, and enjoyable treatment for persons with MCI. Her research is conducted at Baycrest under the co-supervision of Dr. Claude Alain and Dr. Michael Thaut.