DIMENSIONS Winter 2000

MEET THE NEW DIRECTOR

by Julie Cleveland

Dr. Murray Raskind has been an integral part of the UW Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) since its beginning. As associate director of the ADRC since 1985, and the newly appointed director, he is responsible for ensuring that the various components of the ADRC work harmoniously together to accomplish its mission of increasing knowledge relevant to the causes and treatments of Alzheimer's disease (AD). He also works both within the ADRC and the broader UW research community to ensure that this knowledge reaches clinicians around the country and world, so they can provide better care for patients with AD and their families.

Dr. Raskind received his M.D. from Columbia University in New York City, and has been working at the UW since 1970, when he completed his psychiatry residency. His interest in geriatric psychiatry developed during his initial residency in internal medicine. During this time, he became fascinated by behavioral problems that occurred in older patients with general medical conditions, and was aware that these problems were often not properly evaluated and treated. This prompted him to change his specialty training to psychiatry, where he continued to focus on older patients, particularly those with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders which rob people of their cognitive abilities, and also cause tremendous behavioral distress to both patients and their families.

Dr. Raskind is involved in various research projects on AD. He is currently working on a project that looks at what brain system abnormalities contribute to the occurrence of disruptive agitation and psychotic symptoms in AD patients, and what types of medical treatments are useful for these behavior problems. This study has found that some of the well-known stress hormone systems, such as the brain norepinephrine system, appear to be abnormal in AD. When this system is "turned on" by stress, AD patients appear to be behaviorally over-responsive. His study is now evaluating whether medications that have been used outside of the brain for high blood pressure can also be useful in treating the behavioral problems that have their biologic site inside the brain of people with AD. So far, the preliminary results are very encouraging.

Dr. Raskind also works closely with geneticists at the Veterans Affairs Hospital site of the ADRC to identify families in whom AD and related disorders are strongly hereditary, and to discover what genetic abnormalities might cause the disease in these families.

Finally, he is very involved in multi-center clinical trials of new drugs that show promise for treating AD. These drugs are usually developed by the pharmaceutical industry, but must be evaluated carefully by research centers such as the ADRC throughout the country.

The aspect Dr. Raskind enjoys most about his job is helping people with AD and their families. This involves treating both the cognitive and behavioral aspects of AD, and more importantly, he says, "Instilling hope that we at the UW ADRC as well as other centers around the country are making progress towards finding out more about the cause of AD, and ultimately coming up with better treatments."

If you are interested in participating in ADRC research, please contact Beth Hutchings at (206)764-2069.


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