2023 Alzheimer Award Goes to Henning Tiemeier, MD, PhD, and Rosanne Freak-Poli, PhD

10 July 2023

Alzheimer Award

This annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of AD research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Amsterdam, the Netherlands – The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (JAD) is pleased to announce the joint recipients of the 2023 Alzheimer Award are Henning Tiemeier, MD, PhD, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and Rosanne Freak-Poli, PhD, Monash University.

The 2023 winning paper presents important insights into the impact of poor social health, specifically loneliness, on cognitive decline and risk of dementia in older adults. The article is Freak-Poli R, Wagemaker N, Wang R, Lysen TS, Ikram MA, Vernooij MW, Dintica CS, Vernooij-Dassen M, Melis RJF, Laukka EJ, Fratiglioni L, Xu W, Tiemeier H. Loneliness, Not Social Support, Is Associated with Cognitive Decline and Dementia Across Two Longitudinal Population-Based Cohorts. J Alzheimers Dis. 2022;85(1):295-308, https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-210330. It is openly available to everyone to read, download, and share.

Each year, members of JAD’s extensive editorial board select the article published during the previous year that has had the most significant impact on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. The awardees receive the Alzheimer Medal, a bronze medal featuring the likeness of Alois Alzheimer, and a monetary award of $7,500. The award will be presented at the JAD Editorial Board meeting in Amsterdam on July 17, 2023, in conjunction with the Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

Dr. Tiemeier, Dr. Freak-Poli and their co-investigators explored whether loneliness and social support are independently associated with cognitive decline and risk of dementia, and further, whether depressive symptoms confound the association.

“While recent studies had suggested that loneliness or lack of social support may increase the risk of cognitive decline, studies that assess different social health factors, adjust for depression, and follow participants over many years to rule out reverse causality, were lacking,” explained lead investigator Dr. Tiemeier. “Our research was designed to address these knowledge gaps.”

To study behavioral and social determinants of dementia, researchers investigated loneliness, perceived social support, and structural social support (specifically marital status and number of children). They utilized a large ongoing population-based cohort, the Rotterdam Study, with 4,514 participants (mean age 70) who were followed up to 14 years for follow-up of dementia. Importantly, investigators replicated results in 2,112 participants (mean age 72) in the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care in Kungs (SNAC-K), who were followed up to 10 years. In both groups, dementia was diagnosed and cognitive function was repeatedly assessed with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and a global cognitive factor (g-factor).

The results clearly showed that loneliness was prospectively associated with a decline in the MMSE in both groups studied. Consistently, people who were lonely had an increased risk of developing dementia independent of depressive symptoms. Neither perceived nor structural social support was associated with cognitive decline or dementia risk.

Lead author Dr. Freak-Poli, elaborated, “Loneliness is a serious societal problem across all ages. Our findings highlight the importance of developing successful preventive measures for loneliness. Importantly, loneliness may be modified and reductions in loneliness may be possible through interventions focused on social network enhancement or modifying maladaptive social cognition.”

About the 2023 Alzheimer Award Recipients

Henning Tiemeier, MD, PhD, received his Doctorate in Medicine and his sociology degree from the University of Bonn, Germany, and his PhD in Epidemiology from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He is Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam and in 2018, was appointed Professor of Social and Behavioral Science and Sumner and Esther Feldberg Chair in Maternal and Child Health at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. His research focuses primarily on understanding the etiology of common psychiatric problems such as depression in adults and elderly persons (neurodegeneration) and children (neurodevelopment). He has a great interest in detailed phenotype assessment, neuroimaging, and genetics combined with modern quantitative methods.

Dr. Tiemeier has received numerous prizes in recognition of this work including the VIDI (2009) and VICI (2017) awards from the Dutch Medical Research Council and the Leon Eisenberg Award in 2019. He has published over 750 peer-reviewed articles.

Rosanne Freak-Poli, PhD, is a life-course epidemiologist. Her work is strongly driven by social justice, being the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

She is a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health, Melbourne, Australia. She has been awarded an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship and a National Heart Foundation of Australia Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Dr. Freak-Poli has made an internationally significant and impactful contribution to understanding the population impact of social determinants as risk factors for chronic disease. Most recently, Dr. Freak-Poli has demonstrated that social health is associated with a greater severity of chronic disease risk-factors and lower quality of life; increased risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia; and worse mental health during cardiovascular disease recovery. Furthermore, she has progressed the field by examining the social health components of social isolation, social support, and loneliness separately to assess their independent contribution to health and wellbeing.

“On behalf of all our co-investigators and the study participants, we would like to sincerely thank the members of the JAD Editorial Board for their recognition of the significance of our work. We are extremely honored to receive this award from a group of our peers within the AD community,” commented Dr. Tiemeier and Dr. Freak-Poli.

“The editorial board and I are delighted to formally recognize the enormous contribution of Freak-Poli et al. to the AD research literature, selected from more than 800 excellent articles published by JAD in 2022. This research is particularly robust because it presents consistent results from two independent cohorts, simultaneously investigated two measures of cognitive decline and dementia risk over considerable follow-up periods, analyzed several social health factors, and carefully adjusted for potential important confounders including depressive symptoms. This study further supports the critical role of social determinents in AD,” noted George Perry, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, and Semmes Foundation Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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George Perry, PhD
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
+1 210 458 4450

Pim van Holst
IOS Press
+31 20 688 3355

Winning paper (open access): Freak-Poli R, Wagemaker N, Wang R, Lysen TS, Ikram MA, Vernooij MW, Dintica CS, Vernooij-Dassen M, Melis RJF, Laukka EJ, Fratiglioni L, Xu W, Tiemeier H. Loneliness, Not Social Support, Is Associated with Cognitive Decline and Dementia Across Two Longitudinal Population-Based Cohorts. J Alzheimers Dis. 2022;85(1):295-308, https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-210330.

This research project is part of the CoSTREAM consortium (www.costream.eu) and received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant no. 667375).

Click here to view information about previous Alzheimer Award winners.

The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (JAD) is an international multidisciplinary journal to facilitate progress in understanding the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, genetics, behavior, treatment, and psychology of Alzheimer's disease. The journal publishes research reports, reviews, short communications, book reviews, and letters-to-the-editor. Groundbreaking research that has appeared in the journal includes novel therapeutic targets, mechanisms of disease, and clinical trial outcomes. JAD has a Journal Impact Factor of 4 according to Journal Citation Reports™ (Clarivate, 2023). www.j-alz.com

IOS Press is an independent international scientific, technical, medical (STM) publishing house established in 1987 in Amsterdam. We produce around 90 journals and 70 books annually in a broad range of subject categories, primarily specializing in health and life sciences (including neurosciences, medical informatics, cancer research, and rehabilitation) and computer sciences (including artificial intelligence, data science, and semantic web). In addition, we offer specialized services that support scientific advancement. www.iospress.com