The University of South Florida announced Tuesday it received a $44.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health over five years.
The grant will be used to study whether computer-based brain training exercises can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment as well as dementia, including Alzheimer’s, in older adults.
USF’s Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training study will be the largest primary prevention trial to date, according to a news release from the university.
Previous research from principal investigator Jerri Edwards and others has found that targeted computerized training can help maintain mental and physical function. In one study, they found that healthy older adults had almost 30 percent less of a risk of dementia than those who didn’t receive the training and about 48 percent less likely 10 years later if they continued. Alzheimer’s currently does not have a cure.
“If we can reduce the chances of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias with a cognitive training regimen — an inexpensive and safe non-drug intervention — that would be a huge public health advance,” said Edwards, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “Research suggests that delaying the onset of dementia by even one year would result in millions of fewer cases over the next 30 years.”
The study will attempt to find more conclusive evidence about the impact of computerized training.
Researchers plan to enroll 7,600 healthy adults at various U.S. locations who are ages 65 and older and have no signs of cognitive impairment or dementia. They will study the participants for three years, using brain scans to diagnose dementia and see if those who do have neurodegenerative diseases benefit from the training.
The study is seeking participants in the Tampa Bay area, particularly African American and Hispanic and Latino volunteers, populations they say are at highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
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