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2014 Grants - Belchior
Sustaining and Retraining Attention in Individuals with MCI
Patricia Belchior, Ph.D.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2014 New Investigator Research Grant
Recent data suggest that Alzheimer’s disease occurs on a continuum, starting with a silent, asymptomatic stage, and moving to the first behavioral changes called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), followed by the classic dementia changes observed with Alzheimer’s disease. MCI is a condition in which an individual’s brain function has begun to decline, but not enough to affect their ability to independently perform daily functions. In some cases, people with MCI have biomarkers or measures that can detect biological changes associated with the same disease processes seen in Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that MCI is part of the continuum moving towards Alzheimer’s disease. For individuals with MCI, there is preliminary evidence that specific types of focused mental stimulation, referred to as “brain training,” may improve daily functioning and quality of life.
Patricia Belchior, Ph.D., and colleagues have created a series of computer-based brain exercises designed to help people with MCI. These exercises are known collectively as BrainSHARP, and were developed to improve attention skills and everyday functional performance in real-life situations (e.g., driving, shopping, taking medications, etc.). BrainSHARP can be used at home and, if effective, could be expanded for use on the internet, providing a cost-effective, non-pharmacological intervention for individuals with MCI.
Dr. Belchior and colleagues have proposed a clinical study to evaluate the impact of BrainSHARP on people with MCI. Participants in the study will use the BrainSHARP program in their home over a 12-week period and the researchers will evaluate the participants’ daily function. They will also monitor how it affects the individual’s performance on clinical tests of attention. Individuals participating in this study will be followed for up to one year to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of the BrainSHARP program. This study will provide further insight into whether brain training, such as BrainSHARP, is an effective way to improve or maintain daily function and attention in people with cognitive impairment.