Skip to Content


Congratulations Stephanie Houston, MBA - Recipient of the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter Network Professional Award

Awarded to an individual who brings to her/his employment a dedication that serves as a model to others in the field.


Stephanie Houston has served as an Outreach Specialist at the WAI in the Milwaukee Regional Office since 2009. In this role, Stephanie leads the service and comprehensive care components of WAI by providing short-term case management assistance to cognitively impaired and medically underserved African American older adults in Milwaukee County. Stephanie is a resource and a service link for minority elders and their families who need proper assessment and diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In addition, Stephanie is a member of the healthcare team at Milwaukee Health Services’ Dementia Diagnostic Clinic. She routinely meets with patients, families and informal caregivers within the clinic conducting interviews and sharing resources and information available in the area community. She is actively involved in research recruitment and retention of minority participants in UW sponsored Alzheimer’s disease research projects.


Stephanie manages caseloads and provides social work interventions to assure that clients' health, psychosocial, and socioeconomic needs are addressed. Going above and beyond, Stephanie has done emergency home visits and connects individuals and family caregivers to community resources for socialization and support.


Stephanie also leads the Amazing Grace Chorus, comprised of people with dementia and their caregivers. The Chorus is designed to improve the quality of life of participants through socialization and music while integrating the pillars of education and service. Stephanie is at Choir rehearsals every Saturday morning. When the group travels for performances, she arranges transportation, brings food, hauls supplies, and does whatever it takes to make the choir members comfortable in their surroundings. She works long hours making sure that the participants’ needs are met. Stephanie always goes a step or two beyond what is expected as a courtesy and not an obligation.


Stephanie advocates for and empowers clients and families to maintain a level of control over their health and wellness. She provides clients and families with educational materials and resources for support groups. She has the ability to educate and explain in lay terms what is happening in the brain when Alzheimer’s disease is present. Stephanie also leads and participates in a newly-developed lifestyle intervention program that focuses on community members at risk for dementia, and assists in leading the efforts of the PALS (Physical Activity for Life for Seniors) project in Milwaukee for African American seniors. Stephanie interacts compassionately when working with families living with dementia, making sure the client lives in a safe environment and that the caregiver(s) have the necessary resources for coping with the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease. Stephanie carries herself in a way that lets you know that she loves what she does.


Because of her dedication, Stephanie has earned the respect and gratitude of those for whom and with she serves. She loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her. Congratulations Stephanie!



Kimberly Mueller, MS CCC-SLP, receives her PhD

Kimberly Mueller is an Assistant Researcher in the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. She received a BA in Psychology from Rutgers University, a Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dr. Mueller’s research is focused on discovering how speech and language changes in normal aging, preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. Her work utilizes Computerized Language Analysis (CLAN), which is an automated means of tabulating language measures and is based on principles of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML). Her work features participants from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), a longitudinal cohort of over 1500 late-middle-aged adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.


Kimberly recently completed her dissertation and received her PhD.  Congratulations Kimberly!  Below is a summary of her work.


Signs of early cognitive decline in connected speech: Results from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP): Detection of dementia at the earliest stages has become a worldwide priority because drug treatments and other interventions will likely be more effective very early in the disease process, before extensive brain damage has occurred. In this work, we investigated whether people with very early memory declines also show changes in their everyday speech. The study of speech is an easy, quick and inexpensive biological sample to collect, and producing speech involves the coordination of several motor and cognitive processes.


We found that subtle changes in everyday speech, such as the use of short sentences, more pronouns, and pauses like “um” and “ah,” correlated with a preclinical condition (early Mild Cognitive Impairment, or eMCI) which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.


In this study, we analyzed two speech samples, taken two years apart, from 264 participants in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), a longitudinal study group of people with a parental history of Alzheimer’s. Of these participants, 64 were identified as having very early memory declines (early, sub-clinical Mild Cognitive Impairment, “eMCI”) based on detailed cognitive testing over 8-10 years. The speech samples, averaging one minute long, were collected by asking the participants to describe a simple picture.


We found that those with early memory declines also declined faster on two measures of speech: content and fluency. The content of their speech was less specific, with a higher proportion of pronouns to nouns (e.g., “she,” “it,” “them”). Their fluency was more disrupted (word repetitions, filled pauses (“um,” “uh”), hesitations). Also, those with eMCI used less complex syntax and shorter sentences, and took more time to express the same amount of content as the cognitively healthy group, at one or both time points.


Our study is the largest prospective, longitudinal study of spontaneous speech samples in a study group of this kind. Our findings are similar to the retrospective study of Ronald Reagan’s unscripted speeches (Berisha et al., 2015), in which the authors found an increase in disrupted fluency and nonspecific language over time. Our findings also bear similarity to the Nun study, in which lower baseline grammatical complexity and idea density predicted later cognitive impairment.


We don’t know whether the eMCI group will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, so our next step is to repeat these analyses with participants who have other biomarker evidence, such as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles as seen on PET scans. We will also follow the progression of the original group throughout the study. Speech analysis may be a valuable biomarker to add to clinical assessments of cognitive function in the future.



Congratulations to Dr. Cindy Carlsson, Recipient of the Louis A. Holland, Sr., Professorship in Alzheimer's Disease

Cindy Carlsson, MD, MS, is the first recipient of the Louis A. Holland, Sr., Professorship in Alzheimer’s Disease at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, UW School of Medicine and Public Health. This Professorship was made possible by the generosity of the Louis (Lou) A. Holland, Jr., family.

This great distinction honors a remarkable individual, Louis (Lou) Holland, Sr., and exemplifies the passion and dedication of a family who has given a desperately-needed voice to Alzheimer’s. "It means everything to me to have Pop’s name associated with this amazing University, and to have this Professorship carry his legacy forward in our fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” says Lou Jr.

In the early 1960’s, Lou Sr. was a dynamic running back for the University of Wisconsin (UW) Badgers, and in 2011, this legend was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame. After college, Lou Sr., a hard-working farm boy from Racine, became a successful investment professional and a highly respected regular on the longrunning PBS program, Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser.

When diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Lou Sr. tackled the disease with the same tenacity that he exhibited in his athletic and professional careers. With his family close by his side, they committed to fight the disease together. Lou Sr. lost his battle to Alzheimer’s in early 2016, and the Holland family continues to inspire change in the face of this devastating disease.

Dr. Carlsson is the Associate Director, Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute and Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics. She is a board-certified internist and geriatrician with clinical expertise in dementia. Her clinical research focuses on early identification of Alzheimer’s disease through use of cerebrospinal fluid and neuroimaging biomarkers, and the role of vascular risk factors in the development of dementia. Dr. Carlsson’s overarching goal is to better understand how vascular risk factors contribute to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and how treating these vascular mechanisms may delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

“Dr. Carlsson is the consummate academic physician. Not only is she an internationally respected researcher, she is also an outstanding clinician, providing compassionate treatment to people with dementia and their families. Her leadership is invaluable as we strive to extend research findings into effective clinical practice across the state of Wisconsin and beyond,” says Jane Mahoney, Director of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Carlsson on this prestigious honor.



WRAP Biennial Information Sessions 2016

WRAP is funded by the National Institute of Health and is a premiere program seeking to understand the lifestyle and health factors that determine whether a person develops Alzheimer's disease. WRAP participants, a group of over 1,500 persons from the United States and beyond, recently attended an informational session hosted by WRAP investigators. Thank you to our participants! Because of you, we are making significant discoveries about Alzheimer's disease. Below are links to some of the presentations.

Welcome & Overview
Sterling Johnson, Ph.D., Principle Investigator of WRAP, Professor of Dementia and Geriatrics

Identifying Early Cognitive Changes in WRAP
Lindsay Clark, Ph.D., Holland Fellow in Neuropsychology and Neuroimaging


Physical Examination and Surgery Study
Lisa Bratzke, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Nursing


A Final Contribution: Donation to the Wisconsin Brain Donor Program
M. Shahriar Salamat, MD, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

red bar