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2015 Grants - Fairchild
Exercise and Cognitive Function in Older Adults with MCI
Jennifer Kaci Fairchild, Ph.D.
Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research
Palo Alto, California
2015 New Investigator Research Grant
Do proteins secreted from muscles during exercise contribute to the benefits of physical exercise on brain health?
Physical exercise has substantial benefits for the promotion of health and the prevention and treatment of disease. Evidence of the beneficial effects of exercise on brain health and cognitive function has steadily grown, but the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects remain unclear. Recent studies using mice have shown that proteins secreted from skeletal muscles during exercise may be a possible mechanism. These proteins, termed myokines, may directly or indirectly contribute to the cognitive benefits of physical exercise. To date, the role of myokines on cognition in human participants has not been investigated.
Jennifer Kaci Fairchild, Ph.D., and colleagues will investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which exercise may improve cognitive function in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – a condition of mild decline in brain function (e.g. memory, planning, language, or thinking abilities) that may precede Alzheimer’s. The researchers will use data collected in the Department of Defense-funded clinical trial, “A Combination Training Program for Veterans with Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI).” In this clinical trial, one group of older veterans participated in a cognitive training program with exercise (aerobic and resistance) and another group received the cognitive training with only mild stretching (i.e. the control group). This study design allows researchers to specifically examine the effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on brain health. Dr. Fairchild and colleagues will measure the levels of myokines in blood samples collected from the participants before and after the exercise program and determine how changes in myokines relate to cognitive function.
The results of these studies may provide new information regarding how molecules secreted by muscles through exercise can affect cognitive function. A better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to the development of novel treatments and exercise intervention programs to help improve brain health in people with MCI or Alzheimer’s disease.