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2021 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant (AARG)

White Matter: a Target for Lifestyle Interventions to Prevent Dementia

Could the interplay between brain connections, cognition, and physical activity prevent or slow down cognitive decline?

Agnieszka Burzynska, Ph.D.
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO - United States


White matter is the wiring system in the brain, used by nerve cells in the brain to communicate with one another. Damage to the white matter is one of the brain changes observed in Alzheimer’s. However, how the structure of the white matter may be associated with cognition and brain changes observed in Alzheimer’s remains unclear.

Research Plan

Dr. Agnieszka Burzynska and colleagues will obtain brain scans from 102 cognitively unimpaired individuals between 45 and 75 years of age. Using multiple cutting-edge brain scan techniques the researchers will study the detailed structure of the white matter of the brain. The researchers will also administer several cognitive tests to study memory, information processing speed and other cognitive functions, in the participants. Dr. Burzynska’s team will then compare findings from the brain scans to the cognitive test results. 

Furthermore, the research team will obtain sedentary daily time - light, moderate and vigorous physical activity data - from tracking devices worn on the wrist by the participants. Using these datasets, the researchers will study how lifestyle interventions such as physical activity may impact the structure of the white matter in the brain and its potential effects on cognition.


The study results may help understand whether lifestyle intervention approaches such as physical activity may impact white matter and may thereby slow down or prevent cognitive decline.

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