Scientists at LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center are recruiting participants for a study on dementia prevention in older African Americans.
The project is unique because few studies to date specifically developed behavior change interventions for older African Americans that target preventing dementia, said Robert Newton Jr., who designed the project with Owen Carmichael, Ph.D.
“The goal of Program for the African American Cognition and Exercise (PAACE) study is to increase our knowledge of the effects of behavior change programs on dementia prevention,” Newton said. Study participants will be randomly assigned (flip of a coin) to one of two behavior change programs:
- A 12-week physical activity program, which includes weekly physical activity sessions; or
- A 12-week successful aging program, which includes weekly small group seminars.
Each program will take place in a community setting.
“African Americans experience dementia, or severe problems with thinking skills that impact the ability to live independently at a higher rate than members of other ethnic and racial groups. Behavior change programs are safe, well-tolerated, and have shown some promise in reducing risk factors for dementia,” Newton said. “We hope to reduce people’s risk of developing dementia.”
However, before Newton and Carmichael could study the effects of behavior change interventions, they first had to develop a program in which older African-American adults would participate. While there have been several interventions developed for African-American adults, those plans were not specifically designed for older African Americans.
“Our first aim is to gather information directly from older African Americans, aged 65-85, about the kinds of activities they want to engage in and use this information to develop behavior-change programs,” Newton said. “Our next aim is to determine if the interventions will be effective in a group of older African Americans.”
If the behavior change programs work as intended, Carmichael and Newton may be able to achieve their final aim – determining if the intervention affects participants’ thinking skills.
Newton is an associate professor and director of the Physical Activity and Ethnic Minority Health Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical. His primary focus is examining how physical activity and exercise training interventions affect the health of African-American adults and children.
Carmichael is an associate professor and director of biomedical imaging at Pennington Biomedical. His research focuses on brain aging.
Funding for the study was provided by BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit supporting research on Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma.