Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a transition state between normal aging and dementia that affects about 25% of older African Americans (AAs) and predicts progression to Alzheimer's disease (AD). AAs may be at higher risk for MCI and AD than Whites, possibly because of differences in genetic, medical, and socioeconomic factors. Thus, there is a pressing need to develop preventative interventions in this high risk population. Based on an extensive epidemiologic literature that suggests that cognitive, physical, and/or social activities may prevent cognitive decline, we propose to conduct a randomized clinical trial to test the efficacy of a culturally relevant intervention, Behavior Activation (BA), to prevent cognitive decline. The intervention incorporates AAs'unique beliefs, practices, and communication patterns;resonates with their coping strategies;and facilitates access to care. We are targeting AAs with the amnestic multiple domain subtype of MCI (aMCI-MD) because they are at especially high risk. A bachelor's level nurse will deliver 6 initial in-home BA treatment sessions over 2-3 months and then 6 subsequent in-home booster sessions using language, materials, and concepts that are culturally relevant to older AAs during this 24 month clinical trial. A bachelor's level nurse will similarly deliver in-home Supportive Therapy (ST) at the same treatment intensity. ST is a placebo treatment that controls for attention. We plan to recruit subjects from multiple community sites (e.g., senior centers, senior high rise apartment houses) that predominately serve older AAs and will randomize 200 older AAs with aMCI-MD to BA or ST. The primary outcome is episodic memory as measured by the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised (HVLT-R) at baseline and at months 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24. We hypothesize that 20% of BA-treated subjects, compared to 40% of ST-treated subjects, will decline by e 6 points on the HVLT-R over 24-months. A 6-point decline on the HVLT-R translates clinically to the loss of ability to perform an instrumental activity of daily living task. The secondary outcomes are general and domain-specific neuropsychological function, difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living, depression, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and quality-of-life. This research is innovative because it targets a high-risk minority sample;employs a community-based strategy to recruit subjects, deliver the intervention, and assess outcomes;and tests a nonpharmacologic intervention that resonates with the coping strategies of older AAs. Over the past ten years we have developed productive clinical and research programs with AAs in community settings and have the established relationships, preliminary data, and clinical trials expertise to conduct the proposed research.

Public Health Relevance

Relevance: Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is one of the strongest risk factors for Alzheimer's disease (AD) in the United States. Given the enormous personal and societal costs of AD, especially as it affects older AAs, demonstrating that a culturally relevant, nonpharmacological intervention prevents cognitive decline would boost public health efforts to encourage all older persons to pursue active lifestyles. The impact of this effort is magnified by the negative results of clinical trials of drug treatments for MCI and AD. Until we find better treatments for AD, behavioral interventions may hold the best hope for preserving cognition in an aging society.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-NRCS-B (01))
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Ryan, Laurie M
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Thomas Jefferson University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Rovner, Barry W; Casten, Robin J; Leiby, Benjamin E (2016) Determinants of Activity Levels in African Americans With Mild Cognitive Impairment. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord 30:41-6
Rovner, Barry W; Casten, Robin J (2016) Preserving Cognition in Older African Americans with Mild Cognitive Impairment. J Am Geriatr Soc 64:659-61
Rovner, Barry W; Casten, Robin J; Harris, Lynn F (2013) Cultural diversity and views on Alzheimer disease in older African Americans. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord 27:133-7
Rovner, Barry W; Casten, Robin J; Harris, Lynn Fields (2013) Sociocultural Influences on Diabetes Self-Management Behaviors in Older African Americans. Diabetes Spectr 26:29-33
Rovner, Barry W; Casten, Robin J; Hegel, Mark T et al. (2012) Preventing cognitive decline in older African Americans with mild cognitive impairment: design and methods of a randomized clinical trial. Contemp Clin Trials 33:712-20