Clinical Trial Seeks to Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s, Delay Effects from Disease

Jan. 29, 2019 – What if solving brain games and puzzles on a computer could reduce the chances of developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s or delay the debilitating loss of function associated with the disease?

That’s the question researchers from the University of South Florida (USF) are seeking to answer through a pioneering new study that will test a training regimen designed to improve brain function. Using a $2.7-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the researchers are developing a clinical trial for up to 1,600 older adults, who will learn a mental exercise routine focused on processing information to target cognitive improvements over time.

“This is a large primary prevention trial to examine if computerized cognitive exercises will reduce the risk of dementia,” said Dr. Elizabeth Hudak, Research Assistant Professor at USF Morsani College of Medicine. “It is the first of its kind study that will train adults on these exercises.”

The primary investigators of the new study “Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Cognitive Training” are Dr. Jerri Edwards with the USF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences and Dr. David Morgan with Michigan State University and former head of USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute. They will oversee four training facilities, three in Tampa Bay and one in Michigan, that will each host up to 400 older adults.

One of the training sites will be located on the campus of USF St. Petersburg (USFSP).

“What we have learned is that the types of activities people do as they age really matter,” said Dr. Jennifer O’Brien, Associate Professor of Psychology who will supervise data collection and analysis at USFSP. “Those that target these cognitive functions, that continue to challenge a person and adapt with performance across time are beneficial to improving quality of life.”

The clinical trial will consist of a variety of brain games on a computer in which participants are asked to indicate what they saw or heard and solve puzzles. Each participant will visit a training facility three times to learn how to follow the mental regimen. Over the course of three years, they will complete a total of 45 hours of computerized training exercises on their own. Researchers will then monitor for cognitive improvements or signs of decline.

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