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2007 Grant - Jak
Activity Levels, Cognition and Temporal Lobe Integrity in At-Risk Adults
Amy Jak, Ph.D.
Veterans Medical Research Foundation
San Diego, California
2007 New Investigator Research Grant
Increasing evidence indicates that healthful lifestyle choices — including physical activity and cognitively stimulating pastimes — can help reduce cognitive decline as people age. Yet scientists know little about how these activities exert their positive influence on cognition over time. Moreover, certain genetic risk factors, including the gene variant APOE-e4, increase the chance of an individual developing cognitive loss and Alzheimer's disease. To better understand who is at highest risk for Alzheimer's, scientists will need to understand how genetic risk factors and the biological effects of lifestyle choices may interact with one another in the aging brain.
For this proposed grant, Amy Jak, Ph.D., and colleagues will conduct an extensive genetic and cognitive study with a group of normally aging adults aged 45 to 85. The researchers will gather questionnaire results, cognitive test data, brain scans and genetic information from their group. They will then use this information to identify any relationships between the participants' activity levels and their cognitive abilities and brain health. Specifically, Dr. Jak's team will determine if certain activity levels may modify the effects of genetic risk factors for cognitive decline. Such modifications could affect cognition, brain structure and the amount of blood flow to the brain. The researchers predict that individuals with higher activity levels will display larger brain volumes, increased blood flow to the brain and better cognitive performance than those with lower activity levels. Such differences could exist even among people at the highest genetic risk for Alzheimer's.
Dr. Jak's study could shed new light on the relationships between healthful lifestyle choices and Alzheimer's disease. It could also lead to activity-based strategies for both preventing and treating the disease.