Oldfield, Reagan awardees announced

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public relations | May 06, 2013

Image with caption: UNMC's Tony Wilson, Ph.D., received the Oldfield Alzheimer's Research Fund Award.

UNMC's Tony Wilson, Ph.D., received the Oldfield Alzheimer's Research Fund Award.

Two UNMC community members - Tony Wilson, Ph.D., and medical student Matt Varon - recently were honored for their research into Alzheimer's disease and other conditions related to aging.

Dr. Wilson, an assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Neuroscience, and the Department of Neurological Sciences, received the Oldfield Alzheimer's Research Fund Award.

Varon, a third-year medical student, received the Nancy and Ronald Reagan Alzheimer's Scholarship Fund Award.

Human brain imaging fuels research

picture disc.
Matt Varon
Dr. Wilson, an expert in brain mapping analysis techniques, uses human brain imaging to detect changes in neurophysiological activity during early stages of dementia. His early studies have focused on the mild neurocognitive impairments and dementia that accompanies HIV infection in 35 percent to 60 percent of cases.

The Oldfield funds allow him to collect additional data from healthy-aging individuals to determine the neurophysiological changes that accompany aging in the absence of disease.

Dr. Wilson also is the scientific director of the Center for Magnetoencephalography (MEG) at UNMC, which houses a state-of-the-art 306-sensor whole-brain neuromagnetometer.

Innovative method may ID early cognitive impairment

As a third-year student, Varon works to validate a computer-based assessment to identify early cognitive impairment. The system includes a self-guided program that tests reaction speed, visual memory, verbal memory, effort and executive function.

Finding ways to screen large populations for early cognitive impairment is necessary to increase health care quality and lower health care spending, said Varon, who recruited volunteer subjects for the computer-based test and helped organize the data collected.

About the awards

The late Col. Barney Oldfield established the Oldfield Award in honor of his wife, Vada Kinman Oldfield, who battled Alzheimer's for 11 years.

The Kinman-Oldfield Family Foundation established the Reagan Award to honor the late president who battled Alzheimer's for 10 years.

A native of Tecumseh, Neb., Col. Oldfield had a successful career in the U.S. Air Force as a communications officer, then entered private industry as a public relations executive for Litton Industries in Woodland Hills, Calif. Vada Oldfield was a member of the Womens Auxiliary Army Corps during World War II and served in Africa, Sicily and Italy as a teletype operator in the U.S. Air Forces communications section. She served a total of 24 months overseas.

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