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AdventHealth is leading NIH-supported research on the effects of exercise on Alzheimer’s disease

The AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute will lead a research study on exercise and brain health after receiving $11 million from the National Institutes of Health.

The Follow-up Longitudinal Analysis of Moderate-Intensity Exercise study, or FLAME, is the first of its kind and will begin in early 2024. The study will examine whether participation in moderate-intensity exercise “affects the rate of change in cognitive performance and risk for Alzheimer’s disease pathology five years later .”

The study is a follow-up to a previous clinical trial, “Investigating Gains in Neurocognition in an Intervention Trial of Exercise,” or IGNITE, from 2016. That trial examined the effects of exercise on cognitive and brain health.

The IGNITE study tested a sample of 648 adults between the ages of 65 and 80, and the FLAME study will re-contact those participants to reassess their cognition along with aspects of “exercise behavior, health and physical function among participants.”

The survey team wants to learn how participants can “capitalize on and leverage” the brain’s natural properties to maintain and improve function, Kirk Erickson, lead researcher and director of translational neuroscience at the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute, said in a statement.

Erickson told Senior Housing News that participants will participate in a comprehensive regimen of cognitive and mental testing, including a 90-minute MRI brain assessment; collection of blood samples; measurements of arterial stiffness; walking speed and variability; body composition; measures of depression, anxiety and fatigue; measurements of daily activity; and stress test.

The study will be conducted over the next four to five years and will require a total of 2,592 assessments.

“We are excited about these results as well as the potential for related discoveries that could be made in that time as a result of our work,” Erickson said.

Erickson said in a statement that the study could expand understanding of how exercise affects the brain and Alzheimer’s disease, which can be used to motivate patients to maintain a more physically active lifestyle to potentially reduce their risk of developing the disease.

“While many believe that our brains simply decay, atrophy and inevitably fail, we are finding that there are things we can do about it and that the brain retains its capacity for modification – even late in life,” he said.

The study will be conducted at three locations: the University of Pittsburgh, Northeastern University, and the University of Kansas Medical Center. In addition to Erickson, researchers will include Drs. Jeffery Burns, Eric Vidoni, Chaeryon Kang, Anna Marsland, Dan Forman, Thomas Karikari, Arthur Kramer, Charles Hillman and Edward McAuley.

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