TAMPA, Fla. - Millions of Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Doctors say brain disease affects more than one in 9 people over the age of 65.
A multi-year study aims to confirm that brain-training exercises -- or cognitive training -- as we get older can stop dementias before they even take hold.
For the last three years, researchers at the University of South Florida have been analyzing the effectiveness of computer games on the brains of older adults.
"We are trying to confirm which types of brain games, cognitive training that may be effective at preventing or slowing down cognitive decline or dementia," explained Dr. Jennifer O’Brien, associate professor of psychology at the USF St. Petersburg campus.
She's involved in the initial phase of a study called Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training -- or PACT -- which is now being expanded nationwide. The research will be funded over the next five years by a $44.4-million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers need to recruit 7,600 people, age 65 and older, to participate.
"We need over 3,000 older adults to participate in the Tampa Bay and Lakeland areas," O’Brien said.
PACT study volunteers must be at least 65-years-old and in good health. They will be required to play brain games for a set number of hours over the course of three years, and then undergo periodic cognitive assessments.
"We are particularly trying to reach older adults who are African American or Black and who are Hispanic or Latino because those are the individuals who are at highest risk for Alzheimer’s or other dementias," explained O’Brien.
It will be the largest primary prevention trial to date. The results could have a far-reaching impact.
"If an intervention like our PACT study could delay the onset of dementia by even one year there would be 9.2-million fewer cases of Alzheimer’s by 2050," O’Brien said.
Alzheimer’s and other dementias lead to a loss in thinking, reasoning, memory, and everyday functional abilities. There is no cure or treatment to stop the progression of the disease.
Depending on the results of this study, researchers hope it's a disease that can be stopped or slowed before it starts.
"The ultimate goal is to provide the strength of evidence for cognitive training so that it becomes embraced by the medical community, by the insurance community, and the individual," said O’Brien.
To learn more about the PACTstudy or to learn how you can take part, visit https://pactstudy.org/.