The Betula Project is a longitudinal study on aging, memory and dementia and has been going on for a period of 25 years. The participants of the project have been tested, interviewed and examined medically at six occasions (1988-1990, 1993-1995, 1998-2000, 2003-2005, 2008-2010 and 2013-2014). The main objectives of the project is to study how memory functions change during adult life and old age, to identify risk factors for dementia and to identify early preclinical signs of dementia. Betula was in 2005 awarded status from the Swedish Science Council as a "strong research environment".
Key imaging findings include:
• Demonstration of a high prevalence of white matter lesions in normal aging (Söderlund et al., 2003, Cortex), and reduced white-matter integrity as measured by diffusion-tensor imaging (Salami et al., 2011).
• Demonstration of reduced frontal functional brain activity, in conjunction with an age-related reduction of frontal grey matter density (Nyberg et al., 2010, PNAS). These observations were based on longitudinal data and challenge contemporary models of age-related re-organization of brain circuits.
• The main known genetic risk factor (ApoE e4) for Alzheimer's dementia (AD) has been related to functional brain activity in unaffected, healthy persons. Work within Betula has showed reduced parietal brain activity, in a dose-dependent manner, in ApoE e4 carriers (Lind et al., 2006, Brain).
• KIBRA has been related to episodic memory and hippocampal functional activity (Kauppi et al., 2011, J Neurosci.).
Ongoing work include an GWAS in relation to brain structure and function.
Involved UFBI-members: Lars Nyberg, Sara Pudas, Alireza Salami.
Involved partners: Lars-Göran Nilsson, Jonas Persson (KI).