Tamar Gefen

Tamar Gefen

Tamar Gefen is a clinical psychology doctoral student specializing in the field of clinical neuropsychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.  At the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CNADC), Tamar works under the multidisciplinary mentorship of Dr. Sandra Weintraub, Dr. Changiz Geula, and Dr. Emily Rogalski—experts in the areas of neuropsychology, neuropathology, and neuroimaging, respectively.  Tamar is conducting research on SuperAgers: individuals living past the age of 80 whose cognitive memory performance is equivalent to, or better than, the cognitive performance of an average 50-year-old.  This project employs a translational approach to investigate factors that differentiate ‘supernormal’ from ‘normal’ aging.  Neuropsychological and neuroimaging data are collected from SuperAgers during their lifespan, and subjects are given the opportunity to participate in a brain donation program.  Post-mortem brains thus collected are evaluated for the appearance of pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease—senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.  These plaques and tangles have been found to accumulate in the brains of ‘normal’ elderly individuals and are implicated in ‘normal’ cognitive decline.  Given this, Tamar hypothesizes that SuperAgers are likely immune to the formation, and destructive effects, of Alzheimer’s pathology in areas of the brain—primarily the cingulate gyrus—a key region responsible for attention, motivation, and memory.   Probing the mystery of SuperAging will provide us with strategies for helping ‘normal’ elderly individuals maintain cognitive function, and will aid in the understanding and prevention of certain dementias.