Linking Research to Alzheimer Prevention
Dementia symposium features workshops, a technology expo and a panel of individuals with early-stage Alzheimer disease.
Guests at the Davidson Conference Center included health care workers, students, researchers and elder-care professionals.
“For many decades, finding an effective treatment for Alzheimer disease has remained an elusive goal,” said keynote speaker Thomas O. Obisesan, chief of Howard University Hospital's geriatrics department.
“However, if cardiovascular disease risk overlaps that of Alzheimer disease, it is reasonable to expect that interventions and lifestyle alteration directed at cardiovascular risk may also be beneficial in lessening Alzheimer disease risk.”
Given recent advances in the diagnosis of the disease, he explained, it is increasingly possible to characterize certain aspects of the condition before the full-blown appearance of the disease.
“Exploring ways to prevent the onset in those at risk is now more paramount than ever,” he added. “These strategies may include control of body weight and blood pressure, normalization of cholesterol and fitness adaptation.”
Following the morning keynote presentations, a panel of individuals with early-stage Alzheimer disease allowed conference participants to witness firsthand how the disease affects each person.
Three couples – Louise and Bob Trevino, Susan and Serge Morales, and Rose and Marvin Kaufman – discussed their personal experiences and the challenges of maintaining normal activities of daily life.
“Panelists served as a living link between the conference attendees – many of whom are primary care practitioners in the community – and the scientists, physicians and researchers who presented their evidence-based findings,” said Michael Adkins, conference coordinator and staffer of the USC Memory and Aging Center. “Their part in the conference was the highlight of the day.”
In a well-attended afternoon session, Elizabeth Zelinski, professor of gerontology and psychology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, discussed her research on brain plasticity, which she described as “the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize neural pathways based on new experiences.”
Her presentation covered a new study that suggests one hour a day of intensive brain exercise can improve thinking and memory. Her research found that those who underwent training were twice as fast processing information, with an average improvement in response time of 131 percent.
“Properly designed cognitive activities can enhance our mental abilities as we age,” Zelinski said.
Another afternoon workshop featured Helena Chui, chair of the Department of Neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Michael Lee, a neurology resident. Their presentation covered neuroimaging techniques used to assess the function of the brain and to locate areas that indicate a probable dementia diagnosis.
“This year’s conference was even better than past years in bringing the most current information to those who work on a daily basis with individuals affected by Alzheimer disease and other dementias,” said USC College professor Margaret Gatz, who heads the education core of USC’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center.
“Our focus on potentially modifiable risk factors was timely and important,” Gatz said. “I am grateful to all who gave their time to planning this event and sharing their knowledge and research findings with our audience.”
The conference is a collaboration between the USC Memory and Aging Center and the Keck School of Medicine in association with the Alzheimer’s Association (California Southland chapter), the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center and the USC College’s Department of Psychology.
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