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2016 Grants - Schweizer
Using Functional MRI to Evaluate Cognitive Predictors of Driving in MCI
Tom Schweizer, Ph.D.
St. Michael’s Hospital
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
Can brain activation patterns inform the development of new tools to help determine if individuals with cognitive impairment can safely drive?
Driving is a complicated task that requires the coordinated function of many areas of the brain. Some people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that can precede Alzheimer’s, may have trouble driving, but many do not. There are currently no guidelines or objective tools available to determine if a person with MCI is capable of driving safely. There are methods available to measure the areas of the brain affected by MCI, but it is not clear if these are the same areas used in driving. Understanding which areas of the brain are involved in driving, and if they may be damaged in individuals with MCI, could inform the development of new ways to more accurately determine if a person with MCI is safe to drive.
Tom Schweizer, Ph.D. and colleagues have proposed a study that will use a video game-style driving simulator, computer-based cognitive tests, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the brain activation patterns of people with MCI and people with normal cognition. Dr. Schweizer will collect brain images while participants perform the cognitive tests or use the driving simulator inside of the fMRI scanner. The researchers will determine if different brain activation patterns demonstrated during cognitive tests can accurately predict driving abilities.
The results of this study may lead to a better understanding of the areas of the brain that are activated during driving and how their function may change in people with MCI. This novel information could help inform the development of objective cognitive tests to assess the driving ability of people with MCI to improve their safety and prolong independence.