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Funds Awarded for 2014 Funding Cycle

Published: December 1st, 2014

Category: News

Through the Partnership in Cognitive Aging between the McKnight Brain Research Foundation (MBRF) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a $15 million grant spread, over five years, has been awarded through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) to fund a multicenter clinical research trial in cognitive aging. The award is in response to the Request For Application (RFA) for research on “Mechanisms of Cognitive Remediation in Older Adults”.   See RFA and Abstract of the award below…

The 2014 grant follows the awards through the Research Partnership in Cognitive Aging in the Fall 2009 in support of research in “Interventions to remediate age-related cognitive decline”, and “Neural and behavioral profiles of cognitive function in aging.” In 2009, grants were awarded to six applicants in the first category, and 11 in the second category, for a total of $28 million for the 17 funded grant awards, spread over five years.

RFA AG-14-016 Mechanisms for Intervention of Cognitive remediation in Older Adults

RFA soliciting one or possibly two well powered intervention trials to remediate or prevent age-related cognitive decline. In particular, we will strongly encourage therapeutic approaches that aim to drive beneficial plasticity of the aging brain and require investigators to monitor plastic changes through behavioral and biological markers. Applicants will be required to use state-of-the-art outcome measures including behavioral and biological markers and perform pre-/post-/maintenance structural and functional imaging. Three important reasons for the use of biomarkers and imaging are (1) to investigate the mechanism of action, (2) to monitor plastic changes in the CNS caused by the intervention, and (3) to identify subgroups of participants who differ in their response to the intervention. Furthermore, major trans-NIH efforts in measurement and instrument development recently have come to fruition, yielding products including the NIH Toolbox (Gershon et al., 2010) and PROMIS (Cella et al., 2010) that promise valid, state-of-the-art measures to increase the data yield from longitudinal studies and clinical trials. One other point that speaks to timeliness of this proposal is the possibility that FNIH can identify substantial cofounding for this initiative that would be available in FY2014. Overall, we now have in place a far richer assortment of potential cognitive interventions and much improved instruments and measures to monitor cognitive maintenance or improvement, as well as improved tools to investigate their brain substrates.

1R01AG049369-01 Remediating Age Related Cognitive Decline: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Exercise Eric J. Lenze, MD   Washington University  School of Medicine


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The vast majority of older adults will suffer declines in cognitive functions such as memory and cognitive control (or executive function), interfering with their ability to participate and engage in meaningful activities. Importantly, the recent observation that the brain retains plasticity late into life suggests that timely and personalized interventions might remediate age-related cognitive decline. Two promising interventions are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Exercise, each of which appears to act in multi-modal ways to make plastic changes in CNS function to improve memory and cognitive control in older adults. Our research team has conducted several studies of these interventions, supporting their benefits and pathways to improved cognitive functioning. We propose a 2×2 factorial design RCT to definitively test MBSR and exercise for remediation of age-related cognitive decline. We will randomize 580 healthy community-living adults aged 65+ to one of four conditions: MBSR alone, exercise alone, MBSR+exercise, or health education (a control condition). Participants will receive protocolized interventions for a six-month acute period, followed by a 12-month maintenance period. We will examine (1) cognitive improvements using a well-validated and sensitive neuropsychological battery focusing on memory and cognitive control; (2) mechanistic changes such as reduced cortisol and improved insulin sensitivity (3) neuroimaging markers of plasticity: structural and functional connectivity changes indicating plastic CNS changes underlying the cognitive improvements (4) individual variability that predicts response to the interventions. Our main goal is to carry out a high-quality clinical trial, such that data and biosamples will become a resource for the scientific community. Then, we can not only improve the lives of older adults in the near-term by matching individuals to readily available interventions that most benefit them, we can also understand the mechanisms of neuroplastic changes with interventions to rescue cognitive decline with aging, leading to a more active and vital senior community. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The world is graying, and the vast majority of older adults will have declines in cognitive function, interfering with function, quality of life, and engagement in valued activities. We will test two promising interventions – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Exercise – for their ability to remediate age-related cognitive decline. MBSR and exercise are both inexpensive, well-tolerated, safe, and highly scalable interventions; therefore i our project can demonstrate how effective they are, for whom, and by what mechanisms, in the near term older adults could receive lifestyle strategies that would benefit their brain and cognitive functioning, staving off disability and dependence on others and maintaining engagement in life’s most valued activities.