National Institute on Aging awards grant to study age-related brain disorders

Published on December 9, 2009 at 12:03 AM · No Comments

Dr. Rong Zhang, a researcher at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, has been awarded a four-year grant from the National Institute on Aging to research the connection between exercise and brain function as people age.

"There are many mysteries about cerebrovascular function in healthy seniors and how it's different in those with mild cognitive impairment, which leads to Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Zhang said. "We also know little about whether exercise training improves brain blood flow and brain function. Our goal is to unlock these mysteries and search for better preventions and treatments for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia."

The most common cause of dementia in the United States is Alzheimer's disease, which affects one in 10 people over 65 and nearly half of those who reach age 85.

Many people with mild cognitive impairment eventually develop Alzheimer's disease, although some remain stable and others even return to normal. Dr. Zang's research project, "Mild Cognitive Impairment: Cerebrovascular Dysfunction and Exercise Training," aims to better understand why people develop cognitive impairment and how the condition worsens.

"The importance of this research is paramount as we race to learn more about aging, brain function and what causes dementia and other age-related brain diseases," said Dr. Benjamin Levine, director of the IEEM and the study's senior collaborator. "This work will help us better understand cognitive impairment and has the potential to one day make a significant impact on the prevention and treatment of the disease."

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