Epidemiology Seminar Series: Jennifer Weuve, PhD
February 21, 2020
10:00 am-11:00 am
Life Science Laboratories
Room: LSL S340
UMass Amherst Campus
Dr. Weuve will provide an introduction to dementia, why it is a public health problem, and the major challenges inherent in identifying its causes. She will also provide a tour through research on how the risk for dementia might be influenced by exposures to toxicants in the environment.
The aging baby boomer population along with extended lifespans have established dementia, the syndrome of dysfunctional memory, as a condition of pressing public health interest. There is limited certainty about dementia’s causes, in part, because they are likely to be numerous. Most dementia prevention research has focused on genetic, behavioral, and clinical determinants. Exposures to environmental toxicants have received less attention, in spite of their pervasiveness. However, clues that these exposures may be relevant come from their adverse associations with cardiovascular disease and stroke, both of which appear to increase dementia risk. I will present highlights from my research on three environmental exposures—lead, air pollution, and noise—in relation to dementia and related outcomes. Along the way, I will feature critical challenges inherent to this line of inquiry. One of the most effective ways to rise to these challenges is to conduct this research by deeply integrating expertise from exposure science, dementia, and epidemiologic methods. It is what makes for science that is more compelling, useful, and coincidentally, fun. Moreover, if high-quality evidence indicates that, in the main, environmental exposures influence dementia risk, we may be able to use policy and technological levers to intervene on the dementia epidemic at the level of populations.