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2015 Grants - Campos
Real-World Multitasking Challenges in MCI and Alzheimer’s Disease
Jennifer Campos, Ph.D.
Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-UHN
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2015 New Investigator Research Grant
How does mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease affect a person’s ability to perform complex tasks?
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a decline in brain function that sometimes precedes Alzheimer’s disease. Much of the research on how MCI and Alzheimer’s disease affect brain function has focused on specific individual brain processes. However, in real-world situations, the brain must perform many processes at the same time to accomplish complex tasks such as walking while talking or driving a car. People with MCI or Alzheimer’s are at a higher risk for falls and motor vehicle accidents, but declines in the cognitive abilities needed to perform these tasks is difficult to detect with current clinical measures.
Jennifer Campos, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to study how MCI and Alzheimer’s disease affect a person’s ability to perform complex tasks. The researchers will use virtual-reality equipment to simulate real-world situations in a safe environment. They will study how people with MCI or Alzheimer’s disease, as well as healthy older people, are able to perform complex tasks, such as listening to a conversation while walking across a simulated street. Another study will assess how well the study participants perform while driving a simulated car in traffic. The researchers will also determine how problems with these tasks may relate to overall cognitive decline and rate of disease progression.
These studies will help researchers better detect and understand how MCI and Alzheimer’s disease affect a person’s ability to perform complex tasks involving multiple brain functions. The novel methods will allow for measurement of cognitive changes which may go undetected in a normal clinical setting. They may also help researchers identify interventions to reduce the risk of accidents in people affected by these conditions.