University of the West of England - Dr Nancy Zook
Predicting Alzheimer’s disease from early cognitive changes
What do we already know?
Previous research have shown that executive functions, which describe a set of cognitive processes including working memory and attention, are sensitive to early decline in pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease. Deficits in executive functions have been found in both mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease and are predictive of changes in status.
What is this project trying to find out?
The project aims to identify if there are any measures of executive function which are predictive of real-world behaviours in older adults. Dr Zook will also investigate which elements of executive function best predict an adaptive social problem solving style and how differences in executive function relate to ability to multi-task and recover from distractions.
How will they do this?
The data will come from healthy adults aged over 60, recruited from the Research in Memory, the Brain and Dementia (ReMemBr) group database. Participants will be scored on a range of tasks, testing mood, general cognitive function, and executive functions. Measures of real-world behaviours will be obtained through general questionnaires, tests of daily function, and performance on multi-tasking and distraction tests. Their scores will then be analysed to identify which measures of executive function best predicted performance in real-world behaviours.
Why is it important?
Decline in executive functions are predictive of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, but the trajectory and nature of this decline is poorly understood. Identifying how decline in executive function relates to real world function will make it possible to develop targeted interventions for older adults. Compensatory strategies, if taught prior to development of clinical levels of cognitive decline, could lead to a higher quality of life by improving and/or prolonging the individual’s sense of independence.
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