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Health News Florida

USF Recruiting 1,600 Volunteers For $22 Million Dementia Study

The University of South Florida is recruiting 1,600 elderly volunteers to determine whether computer brain exercises can prevent dementia.

Researchers have one year to recruit the volunteers, who must be 65 or older and show no signs of cognitive impairment. If the university is successful, it will receive a seven-year, $22 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“The goal of the larger trail is to ascertain that we can in fact delay or prevent dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease by using specific computerized training exercises,” said Jerri Edwards, a professor in USF’s College of Medicine who is leading the effort.

Edwards worked on smaller trials that have shown the brain training exercises reduce the risk of dementia in adults. In 2017, she took part in a study involving 3,000 health older adults who completed 11 or more computerized sessions. The study showed that they were 48 percent less likely to develop dementia over a 10-year period than adults who didn’t do the exercises.

“At this point we’ve done six different randomized trials showing that this particular computerized training program improves older adults’ everyday abilities that help them maintain their function and independence,” Edwards said.  “So we’re now interested in a very large scale to confirm that this could potentially prevent or delay dementia.”

The computer exercises have been found to have other benefits as well, Edwards said.

“We know that it improves driving safety … it improves their ability to do daily tasks efficiently, it protects against depression and older adults who do the training have better health-related quality of life five to seven years later,” she said.

Volunteers must take part in three in-person visits and do 45 hours of computer training, which can be completed at home over the course of two years.

USF researchers received a $2.7 million grant to develop the clinical trial and recruit the volunteers. 

Edwards is working on the study with David Morgan, a professor at Michigan State University and the former head of USF’s Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute.

Volunteers will be trained at four facilities, three in the Tampa Bay area and one in Michigan.

For more information, or to learn how to volunteer, visit , call (813) 974-6703 or email usfcognitiveagelab@gmail.com.

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