UF neurologist to evaluate changes in Lewy body dementia using novel imaging technique

By Michelle Jaffee

Shannon Chiu
Dr. Shannon Chiu

University of Florida neurologist Shannon Chiu, M.D., has been awarded a five-year career development grant from the National Institute on Aging to evaluate brain changes in people diagnosed with Lewy body dementia using a novel diffusion-weighted MRI technique and task-based quantitative electroencephalography, or EEG.

The grant is slated to provide approximately $150,000 per year. Chiu, an assistant professor of neurology, will conduct the study under primary mentor David Vaillancourt, Ph.D., and mentors Melissa Armstrong, M.D., and Michael Okun, M.D.

“It’s a great example of our growing and successful Lewy body dementia program and a testament to Dr. Chiu’s hard work,” said Armstrong, director of the Mangurian Clinical-Research Headquarters for Lewy Body Dementia at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health.

Chiu will investigate pathophysiologic, microstructural and neuronal brain changes occurring in people with Lewy body dementia, one of the most common neurodegenerative dementias but one that is often misdiagnosed clinically, most commonly as Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, diagnosis of Lewy body dementia is only confirmed after death.

colorful image of an M-R-I scan
This image showing how parts of the brain connect was created using a technique called diffusion-weighted MRI.

“Early, accurate diagnosis could aid in treatment, prognosis and long-term care,” Chiu said.

“Establishing biomarkers of disease is key to tracking longitudinal progression and determining whether therapeutic interventions are having expected effects on brain microstructure and cortical activity,” she said. “This research has the potential to guide future development of diffusion-weighted MRI and EEG as techniques that could possibly offer biomarkers for Lewy body dementia.”