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2014 Grants - Okonkwo
Aerobic Exercise for Alzheimer’s Prevention in At-Risk Middle-Aged Adults
Ozioma Okonkwo, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
2014 New Investigator Research Grant to Promote Diversity
Aerobic exercise is increasingly recognized as a low-cost, low-risk intervention potentially capable of influencing the underlying brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease. However, there have been no randomized, controlled exercise studies (i.e. intervention trials) targeted at middle-aged cognitively healthy individuals who are at an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, such as persons with a parental family history of the disease. This is an important knowledge gap because interventions seeking to modify the progression of Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to be successful if implemented before extensive and irreversible brain changes have occurred.
Ozioma Okonkwo, Ph.D., and colleagues propose to study the impact of aerobic exercise among cognitively healthy, middle- and late-life adults with parental family history of Alzheimer’s disease. These participants are enrolled in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), the largest cohort of at-risk middle-aged adults in the United States. The primary goal is to assess the feasibility and acceptability of this structured 6-month, 3 days-a-week aerobic exercise regimen in busy, full-time employed adults. In addition, the researchers will evaluate the intervention’s effect on Alzheimer’s-relevant brain changes, such as brain glucose metabolism and blood flow, maintaining regional changes in brain size and memory improvement.
The ultimate goal is to use the data gathered through this pilot study to further refine the intervention and seek funding from the National Institutes of Health for a longer and more definitive assessment of whether aerobic exercise can effectively alter Alzheimer’s disease progression in midlife. The results of these studies will also provide valuable information on the biological mechanisms underlying the effects of exercise on slowing or preventing the progression of brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease.