ASU researchers have expanded knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease and how to prevent it, from vitamin-like supplementation and aerobic exercise to intervening in disease progression, to improving the mental health of those caring for people with it.
To share their findings on Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive and irreversible neurological disorder and the most common form of dementia, ASU researchers gathered at the Arizona Alzheimer Consortium Conference held September 22. at Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.
Alzheimer’s disease was the sixth leading cause of death in Arizona in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 150,000 Arizonans age 65 or older had Alzheimer’s disease in 2020, a number expected to reach 200,000 by 2025, according to the Association’s 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimers.
Some graduate students come to ASU to study Alzheimer’s disease, including Abigail Gómez-Morales, who holds a Ph.D. candidate for studies in gerontechnology, who will present her upcoming thesis on skills-building intervention for caregivers or people with dementia.
After earning degrees in nursing and radiology from the University of Barcelona, Gómez-Morales traveled the world before landing in Arizona in 2016. Gómez-Morales said she started working with ASU because research opportunities.
“They have very strong research in geriatrics, like … dementia and the elderly population, they have (the) largest school of nursing,” Gómez-Morales said.
Through her volunteer work at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and spending time with Alzheimer’s patients, Gómez-Morales has found it important to examine the well-being of their full-time caregivers. . Gómez-Morales began volunteering with CarePRO, a program specializing in improve the mental health of primary caregivers of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Through this program, caregivers experienced a decrease in depressive symptoms, according to a presentation Gómez-Morales gave at the Arizona Alzheimer Consortium conference.
Gómez-Morales has further helped Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers communicate better through Embodied Labs’ virtual reality and augmented reality experiences. Caregivers are now able to better understand people with Alzheimer’s disease and other related neurological conditions to better understand how to care for them.
Other researchers were present at the conference, including ASU researchers who have worked to prove the effectiveness of particular treatments for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Fang Yu, a professor at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Edson Chair in Translational Nursing in Dementia, has studied how aerobic exercise, particularly on recumbent stationary bikes, can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study of the effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, Yu concluded via MRI that the volume of brain regions that mark the cognitive state of a patient remained stable rather than decreasing during the aerobic training intervention period.
“The goal when we engage in aerobic exercise is to hope, or at least hope, to improve their aerobic fitness, which I believe underscores the cognitive benefits,” Yu said.
Savannah Tallino, Ph.D. neuroscience student who attended the conference, recently studied whether adult supplementation with choline, a B-type vitamin, in mice is effective in reducing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in people with the Down syndrome.
People with Down syndrome often develop Alzheimer’s disease, so research into the conditions is interconnected, Tallino said.
Although there have been previous studies on the positive effects that the introduction of choline to fetuses in utero has on the progression of neurodegenerative disease, Tallino and others investigated whether the introduction of choline supplementation choline would have the same effect on an adult subset of mice – the most commonly used mouse model of Down syndrome.
Tallino and his team are still analyzing the results from the mouse cell data. Their results so far showed there were no significant changes in cognition in supplemented adult mice, but early intervention with choline is beneficial, Tallino said.
It was Tallino’s first time at the conference, and she appreciated the breadth of topics covered by the keynote speakers and student poster presentations.
“I mean, it was really cool to see the extent of the research that’s being done here in Arizona,” Tallino said. “So I really, really like it to get an idea of what other labs are doing.”
Edited by Kaden Ryback, Wyatt Myskow, Sophia Balasubramanian and Greta Forslund.
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