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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / April 2021 / UR CTSI Incubator Project Leads to NEW Brain Aging Center at URMC

UR CTSI Incubator Project Leads to NEW Brain Aging Center at URMC

With $2.5 million from the National Institute on Aging, the University of Rochester Medical Center recently launched the Network for Emotional Well-Being (NEW) Brain Aging Research Center to study the link between emotional well-being and dementia. The new center will focus on understanding how the aging brain impacts emotional well-being – and vice versa.

Feng Vankee Lin, Ph.D., R.N., the lead investigator of the new grant credits a 2017 UR CTSI Incubator grant for helping lay the foundation for this new center. That project, which Lin co-led alongside Kathi Heffner, Ph.D., and Kimberly Van Orden, Ph.D., also helped the group secure a $3.6 million NIH grant to develop the Roybal Center for Social Ties and Aging Research.

“Funding from the UR CTSI Incubator helped us gather information about the interplay between social connectedness, which contributes to emotional well-being, and healthy brain aging,” said Lin, the Marie C. Wilson and Joseph C. Wilson Professor in Nursing at URMC. “That project also allowed us to develop and test an infrastructure for recruiting older adults into aging research studies, which will be used and expanded by the new center.”

The NEW Brain Aging Research Center will investigate the direction of the relationship between brain aging and emotional well-being in older adults using behavioral and brain imaging in animals and human volunteers. These studies will help link observable biomarkers to emotional states with the goal of someday helping develop therapies or interventions to address aging-associated concerns of emotional well-being.

“Being able to recruit older adults into these studies will be crucial,” said Yeates Conwell, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at URMC who is another lead investigator for the new center. Conwell is also part of a UR CTSI group that promotes diverse representation in research, serving as its expert in engaging older adults. “This new network, which has been informed by the UR CTSI’s Office for Promoting Diverse Representation in Research, will offer a new way to engage this special population.”

The new center will also be led by Kuan Hong Wang, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience at URMC, and will be guided by an executive committee made up of researchers from URMC, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of California Santa Cruz. In addition to the center leaders, other URMC committee members include: Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor of psychiatry, and Jianhui Zhong, Ph.D., a professor of imaging sciences.


Learn more about this new collaborative research center in the URMC Newsroom.


Feng (Vankee) Lin in front of an MRI machineLin also received a KL2 Career Development Award from the UR CTSI in 2013 to study whether computer-based cognitive training could prevent functional decline in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.

"I would say all of my research is somewhat related to the UR CTSI,” said Lin. “Without the first KL2 grant, I would not have been able to accomplish any of this." 

The UR CTSI’s KL2 Career Development Program provides two years of support the career development of early-stage investigators who wish to pursue research careers in multidisciplinary clinical and translational science. Lin’s project was supported by the University of Rochester CTSA award (KL2 TR000095) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) of the National Institutes of Health.


The UR CTSI Incubator project described above was supported by University of Rochester CTSA award (UL1 TR002001) from NCATS. The UR CTSI Incubator Program provides two years of funding for “super-pilot projects” that accelerate innovative scientific discovery in the life sciences and public health, leading to new independently funded research programs.

Michael Hazard | 4/22/2021

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