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Dr. Holden Awarded Funding to Study Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Congratulations to Dr. Samantha Holden! Dr. Holden was awarded the University of Colorado Department of Neurology’s Intradepartmental Grant. She was given this support for her study “The eyes have it: a pilot study of wearable eye-tracking metrics as a clinical marker of cognitive fluctuations in dementia with Lewy bodies.”

Dr. Holden will lead this study under the guidance of Dr. Victoria Pelak. Dr. Holden and Dr. Pelak serve as co-directors of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Lewy Body Dementia Association Center of Excellence.

Dr. Holden’s Demetia with Lewy Bodies Study

Cognitive fluctuations are periods of time when a person is less alert and aware (i.e. “zoned out”). They are very common and happen often in people with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). The fluctuations can also occur in other forms of dementia but happen more often and cause more problems in peple with DLB. Cognitive fluctuations are one of the four main features of DLB. Other key features are parkinsonism, visual hallucinations, and REM behavior disorder.

Unfortunately, even though they are common, we have no good way to keep track of cognitive fluctuations in people with DLB. Right now we depend on people who know the person well to see it happening and report it to their doctors. This is not ideal and has led to difficulty in both diagnosing and treating DLB. For example, it may look like a new treatment for DLB is not working when it actually is because the person with DLB had a fluctuation during their memory testing and no one else noticed.

We know there are specific patterns of eye movement changes linked with lack of sleep and its associated “zoning out” spells in people without DLB. Dr. Holden’s study will see if there are also changes in the eye movements of people with DBL during their cognitive fluctuations. She will use wearable eye-tracking glasses to study the eye movements of people with DLB while they are at rest and during memory testing. The study will also compare the eye movements of people with DBL to people with Alzheimer’s disease, and to older adults without any memory changes. If these glasses work, eye tracking devices could catch cognitive fluctuations as they are happening in a reliable way. This would lead to the right adjustments in treatment or testing for DLB in response.

COVID-19 Updates

Our fellow Teresa Lee, MD and Associate Professor Lauren Seeberger, MD, FAAN gave an on-line presentation on COVID-19 and Parkinson disease for the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies. You can watch it at any time.

The Parkinson’s Foundation is offering ways to stay connected to the Parkinson’s community online. They are offering exercise and educational events online. To see the full list of classes, please visit their website.

If you don’t already have one, please make sure you order your Aware in Care kit. These kits help you prepare for planned and unplanned hospitalizations. Be sure to update your medication lists.

We hope you continue to stay well.