The Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers (ADRCs) offer local resources, support, and opportunities to participate in research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. These centers are dedicated to developing and testing new ways to detect, diagnose, treat, and prevent dementia and to improving care for people with these diseases and their families. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds more than 30 ADRCs at medical institutions across the country. Each center has specific scientific and population areas of focus.
A common goal of the centers network is to enhance research by sharing new ideas and results among the centers. By working collaboratively, the ADRCs have produced research findings and resources that have made significant contributions to addressing Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
For families affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementias, ADRCs offer:
- Help with obtaining diagnosis and managing your care
- Information about the diseases, services, and resources
- Opportunities for volunteers to participate in clinical trials and studies that contribute to improved understanding of dementia, which may lead to new treatments and better care
- Support groups and other special programs for volunteers and their families
The History of Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers
Congress authorized the establishment of the first centers, known then as Alzheimer’s Disease Centers, through NIH funding in the mid-1980s. Over the years, the centers program has expanded to support the nation’s increased efforts to address Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
The main objectives of the ADRCs program are to:
- Conduct cutting-edge basic, clinical, and translational research and provide resources and infrastructure to support national and international goals in Alzheimer’s and dementia research
- Train the next generation of researchers in an environment that supports interactions across scientific disciplines
- Provide information to the public about research findings, access to support services, and opportunities to participate in research
How Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers Advance Research
ADRCs conduct research spanning from the causes of and risk factors for Alzheimer’s and related dementias to potential treatments to managing symptoms and helping families cope. Following are highlights of center activities:
- Clinical Research: Centers recruit local research volunteers for clinical trials and other related studies. In addition, each center works with research volunteers as part of a long-term study into aging and the brain over time. Volunteers regularly undergo tests and assessments that help researchers gather invaluable data to explore innovative approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and disease prevention. Centers recruit volunteers from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds and ages, both with and without cognitive impairment, who are willing to participate in research.
- Outreach and Education: Each of the centers supports robust efforts to help raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and related dementias, educate the public and support families, and recruit people to participate in research. Centers have created community programs, support groups, and educational materials. To facilitate knowledge sharing across centers and with the wider dementia research community, many resources are available through the NIA-supported Alzheimer’s and Dementia Outreach, Recruitment, and Engagement (ADORE) repository.
- Data Sharing: Data collection and sharing helps researchers better understand diseases and develop effective treatment and prevention strategies. The National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center collects and shares deidentified data among the centers and with other qualified investigators. The centers also send biological samples to the National Centralized Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias, genetic information to the Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Consortium, and brain scans to the Standardized Centralized Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Neuroimaging. These large-scale data sharing efforts enable researchers to make discoveries that would not be possible with smaller sample sizes.
Much of the important progress in Alzheimer’s research in the United States during the past 35 years stems from research conducted at — or with the help of resources provided by — the ADRCs. For example, center researchers have:
- Conducted a significant amount of the research on the processes behind amyloid plaque and tau tangle formation in the brain, which are hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.
- Characterized abnormal proteins associated with several different neurodegenerative diseases.
- Evaluated cognitive changes associated with normal aging and the transitions from early difficulties thinking and remembering to dementia.
- Identified factors that contribute to changes in cognitive abilities, such as social and physical activity.
- Related changes in brain structure to the clinical stages of Alzheimer's using information gathered from participants during cognitive tests and assessments, brain imaging scans, and autopsies of donated brains.
Find an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Nearest You
To learn more about participating in a center study or to find information on support groups or other local resources, use the directory below to find an ADRC nearest you.
Volunteer for Research
You could help discover new ways to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s and related dementias.