Meet the Investigators – Mente

Karin Mente, MD, MS
Early Investigator, REC

Karin Mente, MD, MS

Assistant Professor, Neurology and Pathology
Case Western Reserve University
Staff Neurologist, Louis Stokes Cleveland VA
Research Education Component

Can you please tell me about your role in the CADRC?

I am a trainee in the Research Education Component (REC) and a co-investigator in the Clinical Core. My role in the Clinical Core involves working fairly closely with the Outreach, Recruitment, and Engagement Core (OREC), which is directed by Martha Sajatovic. With both the Clinical Core and OREC we are trying to increase veteran involvement in dementia research, especially racially, ethnically, and geographically underrepresented veterans..

Can you please tell me what key questions your research is trying to answer?

In the REC, which is different from my role in the Clinical Core, my interests are in MRI and neuropathology. I would like to develop MRI further as a tool for delineation of specific neurodegenerative disease neuropathologies in living patients because definitive diagnosis in neurodegenerative disease requires neuropathology, as in brain autopsy.  (We can’t get anywhere near enough brain tissue in brain biopsies because we need at least half the brain!). Another research interest of mine is in MRI as an add-on method in brain autopsies to look at disease that is more difficult to evaluate by neuropathology. 

How did you get interested in dementia research?

I became interested in dementia back in college when I took a course called Neuro-diseases. My interest was originally in cell biology and cancer biology, and then I realized that many cellular and molecular studies could be applied to dementia and neurodegenerative diseases.

What do you think has been the most helpful to your career so far?

Definitely having a little bit of track record of funding. The first time I had obtained research funding was as a medical student for summer research. Then I had a clinical research fellowship grant from a private foundation when I was a fellow at the NIH. Now I am involved with the CADRC so I am hoping to use my work in the REC as preliminary data to submit an application for a VA Career Development Award, which is for further research-related training and protected time to apply for independent funding in the future. 

Specific to the ADRC, what do you think has been helpful to your research?

Being able to receive support from the ADRC is quite helpful. Research is like the business of entertainment: you have to get a job to get an agent and have to get an agent to get a job. Same thing with grant funding and research. These days it’s very hard to get research grants and even more difficult right now, especially with private foundation funding, because of the current economic environment related to the pandemic.

What does the future of dementia research look like to you?

I think definitely more collaborative research because there has been a large move toward data sharing, especially in NIH funded studies. The research community in general has been making data sets available to other researchers for analysis with larger numbers of subjects. But the challenge will be in the standardization of studies, i.e., imaging, neuropsychological tests, neuropathological evaluations, etc.