The Brain Research Foundation (BRF) today announced that it will provide a major grant that will further research funded by the National Institute of Aging (NIA) which evaluated whether structured exercise slows the progression of Alzheimer's disease. BRF funding will expand that study to evaluate whether the "dose" of physical activity predicts the magnitude of response. "The early studies across the neuroscience community do indicate a linkage between exercise and slowing cognitive decline which is very good news to our aging population," stated Terre Constantine, executive director of BRF. "The next step is a move to clearly understand the mechanism within humans and their brains that is triggered by exercise. What is the breadth and depth of the potential benefit, what influences are factors and so forth."
The research will be done at the University of California Irvine's Gillespie Neuroscience Research Facility, and will be directed by Carl W. Cotman, Ph.D., who led the NIA's research on exercise and aging. In addition to exploring the degree to which the amount of exercise, or dose, slows the progression of Alzheimer's, the research will also consider the type of exercise – aerobic and nonaerobic – and the impact of exercise on sleep, and the effect of sleep quality on cognition.
To date, studies have consistently provided evidence that exercise can reduce rate of cognitive decline in older adults and delay the onset of dementia due to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Aerobic exercise can also boost cognitive function even in adults with mild cognitive impairment who are in the early stages of AD and at high risk of progressing to dementia.
However, utilizing exercise as a therapeutic strategy to delay AD is hindered by the lack of knowledge about the brain mechanisms involved and the effective dose required to trigger those mechanisms across different age populations and various stages of AD. "The neuroscience community is moving rapidly to unlock this opportunity so that people can take control and positively impact their own health, hopefully well into their latter years," Constantine added.
More than 40 million people in the US are over the age of 65 and this number is expected to double in the next 40 years. The elderly are the least physically active of any age group and a 2013 BRF survey found that more than 70 percent of respondents would be more willing to exercise if it slowed cognitive decline. Age related mental impairment rates increase from 10 percent among 70 year olds to as much as 40 percent in 85 year olds.
Brain Research Foundation