NIH-supported Alzheimer’s Study to Look at Exercise

February 13, 2013

Wake Forest Baptist to Lead Multi-center Effort


Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is a leading research site for the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) and will receive about $1.5 million in funding to conduct a new clinical trial.

This new funding from the National Institutes of Health supports the latest projects of the ADCS, a national consortium of academic medical centers and clinics set up by NIH in 1991 to collaborate on the development of Alzheimer's treatments and diagnostic tools. In this round of studies, the ADCS will test drug and exercise interventions in people who are in the early, pre-clinical stages of the disease, examine a medication to reduce agitation in people with Alzheimer's dementia, and test a cutting-edge approach to testing of drugs in clinical trials.

Laura Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of geriatrics and gerontology at Wake Forest Baptist, is the principal investigator for one of the studies, the Exercise Trial. She will work in conjunction with co-investigator Carl Cotman, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine. Baker, a cognitive neuroscientist, is a nationally recognized leader in the areas of aerobic exercise and hormone supplementation as treatments for cognitive impairment associated with pre-clinical and early stage Alzheimer's disease.

The Exercise Trial will look at whether supervised aerobic exercise can slow cognitive decline and will be conducted at sites across the country and Canada. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), the lead institute within the NIH for Alzheimer's research, recently announced the award. 

"We already know that exercise is good for the body, but this study will tell us whether it is also good for the brain, particularly in people with mild memory problems who are at risk of developing dementia," Baker said.

The Exercise Trial is a randomized, controlled study that will test whether aerobic exercise can improve memory and thinking skills, slow brain atrophy, and mitigate Alzheimer's pathology in the brain in adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition marked by mild memory and thinking difficulties that precedes Alzheimer's dementia. The trial, which will start late summer, will recruit sedentary, older volunteers with MCI to participate in a study in which one group will do high-intensity aerobic training and the other low-intensity stretching and balance exercises. These activities will be supervised by a fitness trainer for the first 12 months and then carried out without supervision for an additional six months.

"Exercise is accessible to everyone and has very few side effects," Baker said. "If exercise improves memory and thinking and changes the course of the disease, then it may one day be prescribed by clinicians as a treatment for pre-clinical disease."

Anyone interested in learning more about the study can call 1-855-381-6463 or 336-716-6463.

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Bonnie Davis:, 336-713-1597