There is a considerable amount of social and behavioral data that is correlational in nature suggesting that individuals who are deeply engaged in social and intellectual activities in mid and late adulthood show delays in normal age-related cognitive decline as well as in the onset of dementia. The present project entitled """"""""Active Interventions for the Mind"""""""" is designed to provide one of the first experimental tests of the impact of sustained engagement on cognition in late adulthood. In the AIM project, we distinguish between productive engagement (engaging activities that require sustained activation of cognitive resources such as working memory, reasoning, and long-term memory, often in a social setting) and receptive engagement (engagement that relies primarily on existing knowledge and social interactions). Based on a successful pilot program, we propose to enroll older adults in intensive productive engagement conditions (e.g., learning to quilt or to use digital photography) a receptive engagement condition (e.g., participating in a primarily social program where leisure activities have low resource requirements), or control conditions (Wait-List or Placebo Control where low level cognitive activities are performed at home). All subjects except Wait-List controls will engage in activities 15 hours per week over a period of 16 weeks. We will contrast cognitive, affective and neural function in the productive engagement group with the other conditions, and hypothesize that sustained engagement in conditions that are both intellectually and socially stimulating over this time period will facilitate cognition in older adults relative to a wait-list control. Moreover, because learning a new skill and making new social contacts may permanently impact participants'daily behavior, the impact of the engagement will be assessed initially as well as a year later. Both behavioral and neural measures of cognitive change will be assessed, providing considerable insight into mechanisms of change. Subjects will be characterized thoroughly in terms of behavioral tests of cognitive function, measures of brain structure through structural imaging, and measures of brain function through functional neuroimaging, as well as in terms of psychosocial variables..
The AIM project represents one of the first systematic attempt to change and then measure older adults'lifestyle for a sustained period in an attempt to understand lifestyle factors that contribute to cognitive and neural vitality in late adulthood, much as we understand lifestyle factors that contribute to good cardiovascular health.
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