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Apr 23

April 23, 2012 in Alzheimer’s disease & dementia

Cognitive decline is a pressing global health care issue. Worldwide, one case of dementia is detected every seven seconds. Mild cognitive impairment is a well recognized risk factor for dementia, and represents a critical window of opportunity for intervening and altering the trajectory of cognitive decline in seniors.

A new study by researchers at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia shows that implementing a seniors’ exercise program, specifically one using resistance-training, can alter the trajectory of decline. Perhaps most importantly, the program improved the executive cognitive process of selective attention and conflict resolution as well as associative memory, which are robust predictors of conversion from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

Over the course of six months, the study team followed 86 senior women with probable . The is the first to compare the efficacy of both resistance and aerobic training to improve executive cognitive functions – such as attention, memory, problem solving and decision making – necessary for independent living. The trial also assessed the effect of both types of exercise on associative memory performance and corresponding functional .

Both types of exercise were performed twice weekly for six months. Participants were measured with a series of cognitive tests and brain plasticity was assessed using functional MRI. The results showed resistance-training significantly improved executive cognitive functions, associative , and functional brain plasticity. In contrast to previous studies in healthy older adults, aerobic training did not demonstrate any significant effect for cognitive and brain plasticity.

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