Research

 

Goal:

The world’s population is aging – at a rate that is unprecedented in human history. Maintaining both physical and cognitive function is essential for healthy aging and ultimately, for the ability to function autonomously within society. A promising and relatively inexpensive approach to promote healthy aging and functional independence is exercise. The research conducted at the Aging, Mobility and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory will directly contribute to validating exercise as an approach to minimize the impact of cognitive impairment and dementia while optimizing physical function, mobility, and functional independence in older adults.

Methods:

We are a clinical research laboratory that incorporates cognitive neuroscience methodology. Our main research projects are randomized controlled trials involving clinical populations. In these trials, we typically acquire clinical, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging data. For neuroimaging data, we use a research-dedicated Philips 3T scanner at the UBC MRI Research Centre, a 5-minute walk from our UBC campus laboratory.

We also have an in-house Artinis Oxymon Mk III Near Infrared Spectroscopy system (NIRS) which allows us to see changes in blood flow in the brain. Being able to detect changes in brain blood flow may prove to be a diagnostic tool to better understand changes in brain mechanisms as we age.

Projects:

We currently have a number of ongoing projects.

  • Action Seniors! (Funding provided by Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
    The primary aim of Action Seniors! to assess whether a home-based exercise program may improve cognitive function among seniors with a significant history of falls.
    Status: We are actively recruiting for this study through the Vancouver General Hospital’s Falls Prevention Clinic. For more information regarding this study, please contact our study coordinator:
    Sarah Anderson at 875.4111 x 66459 or winnie.cheung@hiphealth.ca
  • Vitality Study (Funding provided by Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
    The primary aim of Vitality is to determine whether a complex mental and social activities program or a group-based exercise training program will combat cognitive decline in adults who have sustained a stroke.
    Status: We are actively recruiting individuals who have had a stroke at least 12 months ago.  The study is 12 months long, and as a participant, you will be provided with either free exercise classes or free cognitive and social engagement classes.
    For more information regarding this study, please contact our study coordinator:
    Michelle Munkacsy at 604-875-4111 x 69056 or michelle.munkacsy@hiphealth.ca
  • CogMob-MCI (Funding provided by Alzheimer’s Society Research Program)
    The primary aim of CogMob-MCI is to better identify individuals at risk for dementia, should doctors start asking their patients whether or not they are experiencing frequent falls? We know that subtle, but observable, changes in balance and walking ability often occur with early stages of cognitive decline. Thus, we propose to study whether a recent history of accidental falls among older adults with mild but noticeable memory difficulties is a robust indicator of progressive cognitive decline. We will achieve this research aim by comparing the degree of cognitive decline observed over a 12-month period between older fallers with mild memory difficulties and their non-falling counterparts. We will also take brain images to compare whether there are differences in brain function between these two groups of older adults, and determine the clinical significance of these differences. Our study can substantially increase the ease by which doctors identify older adults at risk for dementia. Early identification will lead to the timely recommendation of additional investigations and prevention strategies for those most at risk.
  • Knowledge translation to optimize mobility independence in older adults: Improving Cognitive & jOint health Network (ICON) (Funding provided by Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
    The mission of ICON is to transform how research in cognitive and joint health is used to improve clinical practice and individual self-management. Using digital technology, we will develop ‘knowledge translation tools’ that aim to: 1) improve physical activity to promote joint and cognitive health in older people, and 2) improve the timely use of first-line treatments especially in people with arthritis. The big message is that Dr. Li’s team will engage the power of digital media to ‘put research into action’. The network will modernize the effort to improve the quality of life of older people for the 21st century. The principal investigator is Linda Li (co-PIs are Teresa Liu-Ambrose, John Esdaile, Diane Gromala (SFU)).
  • Reshaping the Path of Vascular Cognitive Impairment (Funding provided by Heart and Stroke of Canada)
    The primary aim of Reshaping the Path of Vascular Cognitive Impairment is to assess the impact of strength training (i.e., lifting weights) on the amount of blockage accumulated in the small arteries of the brain over a 12-month period in persons with vascular cognitive impairment.
    Status: We will soon start recruiting for this study. For more information please contact the study coordinator: Michelle Munkacsy at 604-875-4111 x 69056 or michelle.munkacsy@hiphealth.ca
  • Refining Exercise Prescription for Mild Cognitive Impairment (Funding provided by Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
    The primary aim of Refining Exercise Prescription for Mild Cognitive Impairment is to assess the impact of aerobic training (i.e., targeted walking) and strength training (i.e., lifting weights) on cognitive function.
    Status: We will soon start recruiting for this study. For more information please contact the study coordinator: Michelle Munkacsy at 604-875-4111 x 69056 or michelle.munkacsy@hiphealth.ca
  • Sleep & Cognition Study (Funding provided by Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
    Sleep changes as we age, both in terms of decreased sleep quality and quantity. These changes may play an important role in the trajectory of cognitive decline for older adults. The primary goal of the Sleep & Cognition Study is to examine this relationship between sleep quality and cognitive function in older adults. To achieve our objective we assess each participant’s sleep quality for 2 weeks using a light-weight, water-proof, wrist-worn device (i.e., the MotionWatch 8©). Our findings will be used in future studies to develop programs to improve sleep quality and promote cognitive function for older adults. For more information please contact the study coordinator: Glenn Landry at glenn.landry@ubc.ca
  • Mindfulness Training Study (Funding provided by a UBC Unrestricted Research Funds Start Up Grant)
    Mindful based meditation is a process of training the brain to focus on the moment and reorient the individual to the present. It is gaining recognition for its positive impact on both physical and cognitive health. The primary goal of the Mindfulness Training Study is to examining the impact of mindful based meditation in combination with exercise on improving mobility and cognitive outcomes among older adults with chronic stroke. For more information please contact the study coordinator: Tracy Dignum at tracydignum@gmail.com
  • Buying Time Study (Fundng Provided by the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute)                                                                                                                                        The purpose of this study is to investigate whether a comprehensive group education combined with a lifestyle “activation” program that includes (a) sleep hygiene course (sleep hygiene are habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis), (b) physical activity promotion, and (c) bright light therapy, can improve both sleep quality and cognitive function among older adults. For more information please contact the recruitment coordinator: Stephanie Doherty at cogmob.research@hiphealth.ca

Other Studies (Recently Completed or Ongoing):

  • EXCEL Study (Funded by the Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation): A 6-month randomized controlled trial of exercise in older adults with memory complaints.
  • Vancouver Integrated Study on Aging (Funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
  • Action Seniors! by Video (Funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
  • Promote Study (Funded by Heart and Stroke of Canada, Canadian Stroke Network, & Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
  • CogMob Study (Funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
  • Fit Brains (Funding provided by Mitacs and Rosetta Stone)