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Investigators to Study Cognitive Intervention to Improve Physical Function Among Sedentary Seniors

 NEW YORK (October 2, 2015) – Researchers at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine have been awarded a $ 3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore cognitive training programs among the elderly as a strategy to improve their flexibility and agility. The funding will be used to develop effective interventions with the goal to improve cognitive functions and in turn enhance mobility.

 Disability in seniors can lead to major medical and socioeconomic consequences, and often occurs when activities of daily living, such as walking, shopping, house work, and other forms of physical exercise are neglected. The NIH funding will support the first single-blind randomized clinical trial to test the effectiveness of a computerized cognitive remediation program on improving locomotion in sedentary seniors, a group at high risk for disability.

 “Emerging evidence indicates that the management of cognitive processes plays a vital role in maintaining movement and preventing mobility disabilities as we age,” said study co-leader Joe Verghese, M.B.B.S., director, Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain; chief, Division of Geriatrics at Montefiore and Einstein, and professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology and of Medicine, the Murray D. Gross Memorial Faculty Scholar in Gerontology, and director, division of cognitive and motor aging at Einstein. “However, the use of cognitive training programs to improve executive functions as a strategy to increase mobility has not been widely studied. If the outcome of this study is positive, it may provide insight for future mobility treatment options that may actually prevent disabilities in older Americans.”

 The study will include 420 sedentary seniors who will be randomized into eight-week computerized cognitive training or health education control programs. All participants will receive gait, mobility and cognitive assessments at the start of the trial, post-intervention and at six and twelve months after the trial to measure outcomes.

 “Our ongoing neuroimaging research projects on mobility and executive function in aging are helping to map brain functions that control movement and provide insight into how the brain balances competing demands,” said Roee Holtzer, Ph.D., professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein and co-leader of the study. “This new clinical trial can take the lessons learned from this research and build evidence-based interventions that can meaningfully improve lives.”