This proposal, Aerobic Exercise and Cognitive Training in Older Adults, is resubmission for a Career Development Award- Level 2 with Dr. Joe R. Nocera as the Principal Investigator and a mentoring team of Drs. Bruce Crosson, Ron Shorr, Marco Pahor and Michael Marsiske. Dr. Nocera received his undergraduate degree (B.A., 2001) from the University of California, Los Angeles. He completed his graduate degrees in Kinesiology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (M.S., 2004) and the University of Georgia (Ph.D., 2007). Following completion of his terminal degree, Dr. Nocera earned a post- doctoral fellowship under a National Institute of Health T32 training grant within the Department of Neurology at the University of Florida. Dr. Nocera then received a CDA-1 aimed at studying the effects aerobic exercise on executive language function in older adults. It was hypothesized, and demonstrated in the preliminary CDA-1 work, that the robust documented benefits of aerobic exercise on cognition could carry over to more specific executive language functions. Concurrently, the CDA-1 was designed to increase Dr. Nocera's understands of cognitive neuroscience thus bridges the gap between cognitive functions and Dr. Nocera's previous education emphasis of physical function in older adults. The general purpose of the career development in this CDA-2 application is to further and more substantially develop Dr. Nocera's understanding of cognitive neuroscience for the purpose of designing interventions aimed at improving function and quality of life in older veterans. Specific training components in the proposal include; skills in cognitive neuroscience with specific training in cognitive aging, measurement, neuroanatomy, and basic imaging approaches. Additionally, the proposal is designed to develop Dr. Nocera's skills in clinical/translational research necessary for high-quality clinical trials research. The purpose of the CDA-2 study will build on the CDA-1, which demonstrating an improvement in cognitive function via aerobic exercise, by adding a cognitive training component that will be done immediately following the aerobic exercise. It is hypothesized that the aerobic exercise will potentiate and increase the generalizability of the cognitive training. Importantly, this study wil focus on older veterans at-risk for mobility disability. This area is of particular importance for he VA system, considering a large percentage of veterans are entering old age and therefore likely to suffer from age-related cognitive decline and mobility disability. To address our research question 60 older veterans (age 65-89) will be randomized to one of two 12-week intervention groups: 1) Cognitive Training alone (CT) or 2) Aerobic Exercise + Cognitive Training (AE+CT). The aerobic exercise arm of the study will follow the same format shown to improve a broad range of executive functions in older adults in previous research as well as our CDA-1 pilot work. The cognitive training arm will consists of a popular commercially-available brain fitness program that has demonstrated specific cognitive improvements and high adherence. Ultimately, this investigation will substantially advance the development of treatments for cognitive impairment because these goals explore an intervention that may potentially have pervasive effects on patient quality of life from a cognitive as well as a physical standpoint. Concurrently, this proposal will provide Dr. Nocera with the skill necessary to grow into a successful, independent VA Research.
The purpose of this CDA-2 is to provide Dr. Joe Nocera with a strong mentored-based training program designed to advance his progress towards independence as a VA-ORD scientist. As such, by the end of the designed program it is anticipated that Dr. Nocera will have competed for independent research funding. The area of research described in the purposed CDA-2 has strong implications relevant to the rehabilitative needs of Veterans as it is an intervention designed to improve quality of life in multiple facets of Veterans civilian life. Therefore, this sudy has the potential to lead to efficacious interventions that can translate into improved quality of life for Veterans from both cognitive and physical functioning standpoints. Further, it will aid th continued development of Dr. Nocera and his strong commitment to the Department of Veterans Affairs.