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2014 Grants - Erickson
Influence of African Dance on Neurocognitive Function
Kirk Erickson, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh
2014 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant: Non-Pharmacological Strategies to Ameliorate Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
African-Americans are at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. While the reasons for this increased risk are uncertain, many investigators are searching for optimal ways to promote cognitive health in older African-American populations. Recent evidence has shown that interventions targeting cardiovascular health, such as physical exercise, may be effective at improving cognitive function and reducing risk for dementia.
For this study, Kirk Erickson, Ph.D., and colleagues will test an innovative exercise program with a group of older (ages 65-75) African-American participants. Their program will feature African dance, a healthful exercise that may prove especially appealing to their study group. Over the course of the study period, Dr. Erickson and colleagues will measure changes in the participants’ cognitive functions, quality of life, and symptoms of depression. They will also use imaging techniques to assess whether this exercise program affects brain structures in areas important for learning and memory. If successful, this study could identify a novel, culturally relevant exercise intervention that may help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in African-Americans.