Prof. Stefano F. Cappa
The Dementia Research Center is at the heart of the research activity conducted by the IRCCS Mondino Foundation in the field of dementia and translational cognitive neuroscience. It coordinates the projects of the clinical and research units and works in close collaboration with other research centers (Advanced Imaging & Radiomics, Neurogenetics).
Its main lines of research are the following:
– Early (preclinical and prodromal) diagnosis of neurodegenerative dementia, through the application of disease-specific biomarkers. The need for early diagnosis of different forms of neurodegenerative dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is well recognized, as early diagnosis of individuals with an increased risk of progressing to dementia is associated with significant benefits, both for the individuals themselves and for society. This topic is currently the focus of several longitudinal studies, like the Interceptor project supported by the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) and the Italian Ministry of Health. Our aim is to develop new neuropsychological, neurophysiological and neuroimaging tools, and new genetic and molecular markers with high predictive value and a sustainable cost/benefit ratio, that might allow early differential diagnosis between neurodegenerative conditions that lead to cognitive decline. The development of artificial intelligence methods for analyzing clinical and instrumental data is destined to make a major contribution to this research area.
– Prevention of cognitive decline. Up to 35% of cases of dementia can be prevented through modification of risk factors, such as low education, hearing loss, obesity, hypertension, late-onset depression, smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes, and social isolation. The possible long-term impact of risk factor modifications in the early stages of cognitive decline needs to be confirmed through high quality studies in clinical populations.
– Cognitive, neuroimaging and neurobiological studies of non-AD dementia. Although AD accounts for around 70% of cases of dementia, a number of other conditions (vascular dementia and non-Alzheimer degenerative diseases) are also associated with cognitive decline. A main area of research concerns the spectrum of fronto-temporal dementias, which are characterized by behavioral and/or language disorders; furthermore, patients are also characterized by early onset and a positive family history. Investigation of patients affected by these conditions is providing unique information on the neural mechanisms of language and social cognition, and allowing the development of sensitive diagnostic tools and specific rehabilitation programs.