Hey Everyone! I’m Charan Ravikumar, a senior at BASIS Independent McLean. For my Senior Project, I plan to work with Dr. Farzad Najam at GWU Hospital to assist in studying the relationship between cardiovascular abnormalities and the emergence of Alzheimer’s disease. I’m really excited to be sharing my exploration of the disease with all of you.
This project really began in my sophomore year of high school. I know I mentioned this in my abstract (which you may or may not have read!) but I was first exposed to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) through my involvement in volunteer work.
Growing up, I witnessed the devastating effects of AD after my great grandmother was diagnosed at the age of 96. While I did not truly understand her growing detachment from her family and surroundings, starting my sophomore year of high school, I became involved with the Therapeutic Activities department at Stoddard Baptist Global Care and Nursing Home working with patients affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia through reality-orientation therapy and art therapy. During reality-orientation therapy, I observed several patients find difficulty in differentiating between the past and the present. Most of the time, AD is simplified into a standard form of memory-loss, while in reality, it can be much more complex. My work with elderly individuals affected with AD led me to find a new way to assist with communication and memory through a mural I painted around the facility depicting aspects of patients’ lives. This method was effective in allowing individuals to differentiate between the past and the present.
Through my volunteer work, I understood the importance of conducting research in AD. The effects of AD that were observed in the elderly patients I had worked with already reflected severe cognitive impairments that would inevitably worsen over time. As I began to learn about the cardiovascular system in Capstone: Anatomy and Physiology, I was introduced to connections between sections of the central or peripheral nervous systems and the cardiovascular system. Books I had read discussing the connection between the brain and other organs, such as in Emeran Mayer’s The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health, further caused me to question the relationships between the brain and other organs.
Working alongside Dr. Farzad Najam, Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at George Washington University Hospital, in both research and observership roles, I will have the opportunity to explore the ways in which the cardiovascular system interacts with other sections and systems within the body, with my primary focus being the nervous system. I seek to study several cardiovascular abnormalities, including Heart Failure (HF), hypertension, and coronary artery disease, as well as any evidence towards a relationship with memory loss and cognitive impairments.