MONTREAL — Canadian researchers are recruiting 350 seniors, including some 60 in Quebec, to participate in an online program to increase their knowledge of neurocognitive disorders and improve their lifestyle habits.
The Healthy Brain PRO program, from the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration Associated with Aging, will notably offer participants bilingual interactive educational modules to encourage them to improve their physical and cognitive health, and reduce the risk factors associated with the development of a neurocognitive disorder. .
The program will address seven key areas that impact the risk of developing a neurocognitive disorder: physical exercise; food; the sleep; psychological health and social connections; cognitive engagement; cardiovascular health; and vision and hearing.
“In this first major study, we want to try to see if we actually succeed in increasing what is called literacy related to the disease, explained Professor Sylvie Belleville, the director of the team of Canadian experts who developed the Brain Health PRO program.
“So do people understand the risk factors better? What do they know? Are they aware of all this? And then, do we actually have an effect on their lifestyle?
Each module includes several 10-minute videos and interactive activities. The content offered to participants will be personalized, as much as possible, according to their lifestyle and the risk factors they present.
Each participant will also receive an EEG headband to measure brain activity during sleep and an accelerometer to track their physical activity, which should help measure and quantify the impact of the program.
Neurocognitive disorders are expected to affect nearly one million Canadians within 12 years and reducing the risk factors associated with them is an increasingly urgent national priority, say the researchers.
“As it’s via the web, that means we reach people who may not have access to a gym or who live in the regions or who may have a little more difficulty getting involved in outside their apartment, added Ms. Belleville, who is also a full professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal and holder of the Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging and Brain Plasticity.
“So that’s kind of the point. But at the same time, it has to work, so you have to know if people are actually integrating these interventions.”
Recruitment of participants will stretch until October. Those who are chosen will be expected to participate in the program for approximately ten months. For this first phase, the researchers are interested in recruiting seniors who present at least one risk factor associated with neurocognitive disorders, with the objective of reducing this during the study.
This first phase will determine whether such remote and at-home interventions, offered in a gradual and personalized manner, will push seniors in the right direction by leading them to adopt lifestyle habits that are favorable to their cognitive health.
We will also verify whether the proposed duration of ten months is appropriate and whether some seniors respond better than others to the interventions. The program could possibly be expanded, based on these findings.
Researchers also hope it will give seniors a sense of control over their cognitive health.
Finally, in Quebec, researchers will work in partnership with the Quebec Federation of Alzheimer Societies to examine whether the program really meets the needs of community organizations that are directly related to seniors.