Advance-K Scholar Spotlight: Louisa Thompson, PhD

Louisa Thompson, PhD, has been awarded a 5-year K23 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institute on Aging.

Congratulations, Dr. Thompson!  Dr. Louisa Thompson

Dr. Thompson, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and Research Neuropsychologist, Butler Memory Aging Program, was part of cohort 2 of the Advance-K Scholar Career Development Program. The year-long program from the Brown Division of BioMed and Advance-CTR gives one-on-one and group training to highly qualified junior investigators with the goal of submitting a successful NIH K or equivalent proposal by the conclusion of the program. The K23 Award will help Dr. Thompson establish herself as an independent PI.

The Study: Accelerating digital cognitive screening for Alzheimer's disease in the primary care setting

Dr. Thompson’s study seeks to validate and implement efficient, cost-effective screening tools for Alzheimer’s disease in primary care settings. The study will focus on the feasibility, reliability and validity of novel digital cognitive screening tools for remote and in-clinic assessment, with an emphasis on technologies that require minimal training to administer, have low patient burden, and are acceptable and accurate in diverse older adult populations.

The short-term goal of the study is to understand the feasibility of remote digital assessments, with a marker of achieving 80% adherence to 3-minute testing, two times per day for five days, using either online or smartphone (app-based) tools. The long-term goal is to determine whether these digital assessment tools are as good as, or better than, existing cognitive screening tools, and if there is a relationship to blood biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, ultimately resulting in better health outcomes through earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Thompson’s mentorship team for this project includes four mentors. The primary mentor is Dr. Richard Jones, Director of the Quantitative Science Program at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University’s Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, who has expertise in biostatistics and the epidemiology of aging, and understands the measurements of aging along with the analytical and design elements of a study. The second mentor is Dr. Rani Elwy, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University’s Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, who is helping to communicate the more qualitative data collection methods, inform the protocol design and refine it for the next stage of the study. The third mentor is Dr. Doreen Rentz, a neuropsychologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, who has expertise in digital assessment tools. Dr. Charles Eaton, Director of the Center for Primary Care and Prevention at Brown University, is also a mentor with expertise in primary care based research.

Dr. Thompson first became interested in this work while she was a fellow at the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital, where she was intrigued by new research on digital assessment for screening and how to apply it to clinical practice and care. She is hoping that this study will lay the foundation for a larger, more impactful study that will influence the health outcomes of older adults, particularly in Rhode Island.

Keys to Success 

When asked about the process of working towards the successful award, Dr. Thompson credited the Advance-K Scholar program with helping her break down the grant application process into manageable steps and connecting her with the resources and expertise available at Brown, along with providing valuable guidance in the writing and submission process.