Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Foundation of America

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Awards $50,000 Research Grant to Gateway Community Service Board

Grant Will Help Fund Study Examining Links Between Behavior and Cognitive Function with the Goal of Earlier Detection of Dementia-Related Illnesses

(February 17, 2021)- The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) has awarded a $50,000 research grant to the Gateway Community Service Board in Brunswick, GA to help fund a study exploring the links between behavior and cognitive function—with the goal of finding new ways to predict and detect cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses sooner, when therapeutic interventions and lifestyle modifications are more effective.

“Early detection of cognitive impairments is critical—it affords individuals greater opportunity to begin therapeutic interventions sooner, make lifestyle changes that benefit their brain health, enroll in a clinical trial, and take a more active role in developing their care plan,” said AFA’s President & CEO Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. “We are pleased to support the Gateway Community Service Board’s research into the link between behavior and cognitive function, and are hopeful that it can lead to earlier detection of dementia-related illnesses.”

Lee Hyer, PhD, a member of Gateway Community Service Board’s medical staff and one of the leads on the study, noted: “This is a unique opportunity to assess increasing and new trends in neurodegenerative care. Science is always unfolding and often contradictory. In this year of COVID and post-COVID confusion, it is clear that there are many shades of gray in the makeup of older adults that lead to problems. We believe that, in addition to cognitive decline, there are other co-equal variables, like lifestyle and behavior, that result in poor memory and degenerative problems. This is what we are evaluating.” Dr. Hyer is also a member of AFA’s Medical, Scientific and Memory Screening Advisory Board.

The study examines the relationship between behavioral impairment and early markers of cognitive decline using the Mild Behavioral Impairment (MBI) scale. MBI measures five components: apathy (impaired drive/motivation); mood and anxiety; inhibition/self-regulation (agitation, impulse control problems); impaired social cognition (social inappropriateness); and psychosis (abnormal thoughts/perception). The study also explores the impact of COVID-19 anxiety on MBI, as well as the mediating influences of factors such as lifestyle, exercise, sleep, social supports and overall health.

Participants in the study, all of whom are age 60 and older from the Macon and Savannah areas, are periodically given an MBI checklist, as well as a cognitive assessment, with the results examined to see if there is a correlation of scores on both assessments. The goal is to determine whether the MBI checklist can provide additional early detection of potential cognitive impairments, before some of the symptoms of dementia emerge. The AFA research grant will allow for an expansion of the study, which began last November and is currently ongoing. 

Gateway Community Service Board, as an instrumentality of the State of Georgia, is a public community-based organization serving eight Georgia counties: Camden, Glynn, McIntosh, Liberty, Chatham, Bryan, Long and Effingham. Its mission is to be a leader in the provision of comprehensive community services for mental health, substance use disorders, and developmental disorders and disabilities to the people and communities it serves.

AFA is able to award research grants through the generosity of individuals and organizations. Those wishing to support AFA can do so by visiting One hundred percent of all donations designated for research go exclusively toward finding more effective treatment and a cure.