A researcher at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research in Boston, MA studies MRI images of a human brain.

Brain Health

Through pioneering multidisciplinary research, the Marcus Institute is uncovering new answers to the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, delirium, and other changes to the brain.

Researching the Impact of Age-related Brain Changes

Our brain is responsible for much more than thinking and cognition. In fact, it controls all aspects of the way our body functions. Changes that happen in the brain as we get older affect areas of health such as gait, mobility, and falls; and increase our risk of experiencing dementia and delirium.

According to recent research, one in ten adults older than 65 experiences cognitive decline. This sobering statistic dramatically demonstrates the need to understand the connection between the brain and common age-related conditions, and to find ways to maintain brain health as we age.

Seeking Ways to Improve Brain Function in Older Adults

At the Marcus Institute, we’re seeking ways to prevent, reverse, treat, and manage brain-related changes in the functioning of older adults.

Because the brain is a complex organ that regulates all processes in our bodies, our research takes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding its role in maintaining overall health. The Marcus Institute is:

  • Investigating the novel use of non-invasive brain stimulation to improve depression, executive cognitive function, mobility, falls, and balance.
  • Finding ways to enhance brain function to reduce the burden of cognitive decline, delirium, and dementia. 
  • Improving the care of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other related conditions, and reducing the burden on their caregivers.

Leading Researchers in Alzheimer’s, Delirium, and Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation

The Marcus Institute is home to top researchers in Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, neurology, and delirium. To name just a few:

  • Dr. Sharon Inouye has been awarded many of the highest accolades in her field due to her pioneering investigation of delirium. 
  • Dr. Susan Mitchell is a principal investigator on a massive collaborative research incubator developing trials aimed at evaluating interventions for Alzheimer’s and dementia, funded through a $53.4 million National Institute on Aging grant.  
  • Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone has been recognized as one of the world’s top 15 neuroscientists due to his innovative research into the use of non-invasive brain stimulation. 

Explore this section to learn more about the Marcus Institute’s current research projects relating to cognition, Alzheimer’s disease, delirium, dementia, and depression. 

Find current research projects

Showing 37 Results

Adaptive Biologically-Controlled Home Environments to Promote Health in Older Adults

This research aims to provide proof-of-concept that environmental sensors (e.g. temperature, humidity, light, and sound) can be used to adjust ambient environments where people live, and thereby improve the health and function of older adults.

Principal Investigator

Applications of Claims-Based Frailty Index to Advance Evidence for Frailty-Guided Decision-Making

This research aims to generate evidence needed for frailty-guided clinical care and
population health management by applying a claims-based frailty index to routine health care databases, including patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias.
NIH R01AG071809

Principal Investigator

Assessment of Disparities and Variations for Alzheimer’s Disease in Nursing Home Care at End of Life (ADVANCE)

This research aims to conduct a comprehensive qualitative study to better understand the variations in intensity of care provided to residents with advanced dementia.

NIH R01AG058539

Principal Investigator

Better Assessment of Illness: Delirium Severity Measures for Persons with and without Dementia (BASIL)

This research aims to define delirium severity in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, and develop new ways to measure delirium severity in participants both with and without dementia. 

NIH R01AG044518 

Principal Investigator

Blueberries, Gut Microbiota, and Metabolites in Depressed Older Adults - A Pilot Study

This research aims to gather preliminary data on whether daily intake of a whole-food source of dietary fiber and anthocyanins (via freeze-dried blueberry powder) modulates the gut microbiota, increases depression-relevant gut-derived metabolites, and ameliorates depressive symptoms. 

USDA/NIFA 1029789

Principal Investigator

Join this Research Study

Boston OAIC: A Translational Approach to Function Promoting Therapies

The Boston Older Americans Independence Center (Boston OAIC) is an interdisciplinary research network to foster translational research in function promoting therapies (FPTs) – pharmacologic, physical, nutritional, technological and behavioral interventions that reduce the burden of disabling functional limitations in older adults. 

The overarching goal of the OAIC is to strengthen and expand our expertise and scientific resources in the areas of vascular biology, physiology, genetics, epidemiology, and biostatistics, in order to enhance our understanding of the vascular role in age-related physical and cognitive functional decline, design new interventions to ameliorate this decline, and train new investigators skilled in related areas of gerontologic research. 

Dr. Lipsitz is a member of the Boston OAIC Leadership and Administrative Core (LAC). He also directs the Research Education Core (REC).

Dr. Kiel is a director of the Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC). 

Dr. Travison is a director the Biostatistical Design and Analysis Core (BDAC).

Boston Pepper Center

Principal Investigator

Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions Pilot Core

This Pilot Core will support a group of innovative and scientifically rigorous pilot studies each year that will enable the Boston Roybal Center to develop and test behavior change- strategies that promote healthy aging, especially for persons at high risk for poor health outcomes.  The work of the Core will ultimately lead to interventions to achieve health-promoting behavior change in vulnerable, at-risk populations.    

Boston Roybal Center

Principal Investigator

Cortical Mechanisms and Modulation of Foot Sole Tactile Sensation in Aging and Disease

This research aims to study whether increasing excitability of somatosensory brain networks using a noninvasive technology called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is of great promise to augment foot sole sensation, and thus balance and mobility, in vulnerable older adults suffering from mild-to-moderate sensory impairments associated with type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

NIH K01AG075180

Principal Investigator

Cortical Mechanisms and Modulation of Somatosensation in Older Adults with Foot Sole Somatosensory Impairments

This research aims to examine whether increasing excitability of brain cortical networks as activated by controlled walking-related foot stimulation using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can improve balance and mobility, in older adults suffering from mild-to-moderate foot sole somatosensory impairments.

NIH 1K01AG075180-01

Principal Investigator

Join a Research Study


The goal of the study is to determine whether the senolytic medications Dasatinib and Quercetin can reduce senescent cells, increase mobility (walking speed), and improve memory in older adults.


I-STIM Study

The goal of the study is to determine whether non-invasive brain stimulation improves balance, walking, and memory in older adults.

I-STIM Faculty

Berries and Steps Study

The goal of this study is to learn about the relationship between antioxidants (commonly found in blueberries) and motivation to exercise. Researchers think that supplementing one's diet with antioxidants on a daily basis may be a practical way to reduce inflammation and improve lack of motivation to exercise.

Berries and Steps Study Faculty

tACS and Dual-Tasking Study

The goal is to determine whether non-invasive brain stimulation improves balance and walking.

tACS and Dual-Tasking Study Faculty

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