SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 10, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A study from Australia, published today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that an eight-week multimodal program — combining dementia education with lifestyle changes in diet, physical activity, and cognitive engagement — significantly improved cognitive performance and reduced Alzheimer’s risk among seniors with pre-dementia conditions. The study used the BrainHQ app from Posit Science for its brain exercise component.

Participants in this 119-person randomized controlled trial were over the age of 65, had computers and internet access, and were either diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or reported subjective cognitive decline (SCD). People with MCI and SCD are considered to be at elevated risk for Alzheimer’s.

Study participants were assigned to either an active control group or an intervention group.

The active control group engaged in online learning every other week in four modules: Alzheimer’s lifestyle risk factors, Mediterranean diet, physical activity, and cognitive engagement. In the week following the online learning, participants in the active control were asked to take concrete steps to implement what they had learned.

The intervention group participated in the same online learning; however, they were assigned specific tasks to help them implement what they had learned — including meeting with a dietician to set up a nutrition plan, meeting with an exercise physiologist to set up an exercise plan, and using the BrainHQ app for brain training.

The research team found that the intervention group had a significantly larger reduction in Alzheimer’s risk — using the Australian National University Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Index — than the control group over the duration of the study. The size of the risk reduction was clinically significant – similar to the difference in Alzheimer’s risk between a person who has diabetes and one who doesn’t. Further analysis of the Alzheimer’s risk index indicated that there was no change in lifestyle factors (e.g., cholesterol, smoking) – the improvement was driven by changes in protective behaviors (e.g., physical activity, cognitive activity).

The researchers also found that the intervention group had significant improvement in overall cognitive function, using the ADAS-Cog Plus, a standard measure of cognition employed in studies of MCI and SCD.

In their journal article, the researchers conclude “The main findings from this study were that a multidomain lifestyle intervention was able to significantly decrease exposure to lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease, and significantly improve cognition in a group experiencing cognitive decline, relative to a control group.”

This “proof of concept” study is the first to report findings of several larger and longer term multimodal studies (using BrainHQ as the cognitive component) which are currently in progress, including the US POINTER trial, the Japanese MINT trial, the Latin American LATAM trial, and the Australian ARROW trial.

These study results build on the 10-year dementia findings of the ACTIVE Study, which reported that healthy seniors who were assigned 10-18 hours of BrainHQ training had a 29% risk reduction, and that those assigned 18 hours of training had an up to 48% incidence reduction (compared to the control group) over a 10-year follow-up period. They also build on a number of previously published studies of older adults with pre-dementia impairments similar to those in this recent Australian study, which have found a variety of significant improvements from the training — including improved cognition, improved mood, improved functional abilities, increases in hippocampal volume, and improvements in efficiency of cortical networks.

“These are exciting and noteworthy results,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, the maker of BrainHQ. “Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent — sadly, without success — in the search for a drug to prevent or slow the onset of dementia. Yet, there is a growing mountain of evidence that the solution is right in front of us — promoting evidence-based brain health behaviors like physical exercise, a proper diet, and an effective cognitive training program like BrainHQ. We should be funding more research in this area, and also funding community-based brain health programs to ensure that this science is accessible and used by everyone to improve their brain health.”

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