2022 Anne Martin-Matthews Prize

Each year the Canadian Institutes of Health Research of Aging recognizes the highest ranked doctoral trainee in the field of aging from the CIHR open doctoral competition as the CIHR-IA Anne Martin-Matthews prize of Excellence in Research on Aging Recipient this year is CFMM, Dr. Robert Bartha Lab member Dana Broberg.


Dana is a Ph.D. student in Medical Biophysics at Western University. She also completed her undergraduate degree in Medical Biophysics at Western and has worked at the CFMM under the supervision of Dr. Robert Bartha since the beginning of her research career as a third-year undergraduate student. Her doctoral research work is being performed as part of the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI) - a multisite, multidisciplinary study aimed at characterizing five diseases leading to dementia: Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and cerebrovascular disease. T he primary goal of her research is to compare the relative roles of visible white matter damage (using structural imaging) and subvisible white matter damage (using diffusion tensor imaging) as indicators of cognition in neurodegenerative diseases, particularly concerning spoken language. A secondary goal of her work is to validate a novel speech biomarker of cognitive impairment called multidomain spoken discourse analysis, which involves meticulously evaluating a patient's prompted conversational speech across multiple domains of language function. Specifically, she hopes to validate that this discourse analysis is sensitive to underlying white matter pathology with respect to both visible and potential early-stage, subvisible damage in multiple patient populations. The main impacts of her research on the field of aging will be through (1) revealing whether early stages of white matter damage that is not visible upon structural imaging is detectable through diffusion imaging and is related to cognitive impairment in neurodegenerative diseases, and (2) helping to validate a novel speech biomarker of cognition that will be very easy for clinicians to implement and interpret, providing sensitive and early detection of cognitive impairment. This, in turn, will contribute to developing and implementing more effective therapeutic strategies earlier in disease courses leading to dementia.