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ARRA Investments in Research on Independence with Aging


Public Health Burden
With the aging of the population, more and more older adults face loss of cognitive or physical function or both.  Older adults with these conditions are less likely to remain in the community; have higher rates of morbidity, mortality, and hospitalizations; and experience a poorer quality of life.

Understanding and Preventing Loss of Cognitive Function
A growing body of evidence suggests that both physical and mental exercise may exert a protective effect on the brain in older age, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms and more intervention testing is needed.  ARRA-supported researchers are working to:
  • Understand the role that neurotrophic factors play in healthy and abnormal brain aging.  Neurotrophic factors (NTFs) are proteins that promote the development of new neurons and the repair of damaged ones.  Animal and human studies have shown that circulating levels of NFTs increase with exercise and also with a caloric restricted diet or one rich in fruits and vegetables.1
  • Elucidate the neural mechanisms that contribute to robust age-related decline in prospective memory – the act of remembering to carry out an intention such as sending a grandchild a birthday card, paying bills on time, or taking needed medication.2
  • Determine the effectiveness of exercise and cognitive training separately and in combination to enhance cognitive function in cognitively normal and cognitively impaired older adults.3
  • Develop and test novel training approaches to improve speed of cognitive processing among older adults and people with Parkinson’s disease.4
  • Examine the biological mechanisms by which aerobic exercise exerts an effect on neurocognitive function in African Americans with mild Alzheimer’s disease.5
Addressing Physical Disability
While several studies suggest that exercise may prevent declines in mobility and other forms of physical ability, definitive evidence and a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms are needed.  ARRA-supported researchers are:
  • Conducting a full-scale clinical trial of a long-term structured physical activity program to prevent major mobility disability and cognitive decline.  The results of the trial will fill an important knowledge gap in the practice of evidence-based geriatric medicine.6
  • Testing novel approaches that can remove barriers to increasing functional capacity in exercise training programs.7
  • Investigating the impact that the aging extracellular matrix has on muscle stem cells and the ability of these cells to maintain and regenerate skeletal muscle, a critical factor for preserving muscle mass and strength in the elderly.8
  • Identifying the mechanisms within the brain that might underlie postural balance dysfunction in older people and establish a scientifically grounded therapeutic program for enhancing balance function and reducing the risk of falls.9
  • Investigating the extent to which mitochondrial function in skeletal muscle cells is associated with age-related mobility disability.10





  • Evaluating the association between mitochondrial DNA sequence variations and energy expenditure in elderly people during activity and at rest.11
  • Assessing biological and functional differences between older adults with fatigue and their non-fatigued counterparts.  Measures include physical function, aerobic capacity, mitochondrial function, and psychosocial health.12
Addressing the Psychosocial Aspects of Independence
ARRA-supported researchers are:
  • Facilitating collaboration across disciplines to foster research on the dynamics of disability including issues such as family changes and their impact on independence for older adults, disability measurement, biosocial pathways to disability, and dissemination of research results.13
  • Using an interdisciplinary model of disability based on concepts from gerontology, psychiatry, rehabilitation, and sociology to inform development of strategies to optimize function, independent living, and quality of life in older adults.14
  • Examining older adults' perceptions of usefulness and how making valued contributions to others affects cognitive and physical functioning, health outcomes, and the psychosocial, behavioral, and biological mediators that may underlie such relationships.15



  1. 1R01AG031287-01A2 -- Neurotrophic Factors: Genetic Variation and Serum Levels in Brain Aging -- Sudha Seshadri (MA)
  2. 1RC1AG036258-01 -- Neural Mechanisms of Age-Related Changes in Prospective Memory -- Mark A. McDaniel (MO)
  3. 1RC1AG035933-01, --ExerciseVersusCognitiveInterventionsforEldersatRiskforDementia--DavidLoewenstein(FL);1RC1AG035954-01, --Brain&CognitiveChangesafterReasoningorPhysicalTraininginCognitivelyNormal--SandraB.Chapman(TX);1RC1AG035927-01, --BrainandBehavioralCorrelatesofFitnessCerebrovascularHealthandAging--MonicaFabiani(IL);1RC1AG035775-01, --NeuralEffectsofExerciseCognitiveorCombinedTraininginADAt-RiskElders--StephenMarkRao(OH);1RC1AG036003-01, --ImpactofExerciseandEngagementonCognitioninOlderAdultsand3R01AG026589-02S1 -- Active Interventions for the Aging Mind -- Denise Cortis Park (TX)
  4. 1RC1AG035546-01, --RCTofTwoSpeedofProcessingModestoPreventCognitiveDeclineinOlderAdults--FredericD.Wolinsky(IA);1R21AG033332-01A1 -- Cognitive Speed of Processing Training among Persons with Parkinson’s Disease -- Jerri Edwards (FL)
  5. 1R01AG031517-01A2 -- Effects of Standardized Aerobic Exercise Training on Neurocognitive and Neurodegenerative Function in African Americans -- Thomas O. Obisesan (DC)
  6. 2U01AG022376-05A2 -- Physical Exercise To Prevent Disability -- Marco Pahor (FL)
  7. 1RC1AG035822-01 -- Mechanisms and Functional Outcomes of Exercise Progression Models -- Jason David Allen (NC)
  8. 1R21AG033317-01, --TheRoleofAgeingontheRegulatoryEffectsofSkeletalMuscleExtracellularMatrix--MarkVanDyke(NC);1F32AG034009-01 -- The Role of Extracellular Matrix Aging of Skeletal Muscle -- Matthew Stern (NC)
  9. 1R01AG029510-01A2 -- Lateral Stability and Falls in Aging -- Mark W. Rogers (MD)
  10. 1RC2AG036594-01 -- Study of Energy and Aging -- Steven R. Cummings, Kevin E. Conley, Karyn Ann Esser, William J. Evans, Stephen B. Kritchevsky, Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, John M. Neuhaus, and Anne B. Newman (CA)
  11. 1R03AG032498-01A1 -- Mitochondrial DNA Variation in Human Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Rate -- Gregory J. Tranah (CA)
  12. 3P30AG028740-03S1 -- Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center -- Marco Pahor (FL)
  13. 1P30AG034460-01 -- Hopkins Center for Population Aging and Health -- Emily M. Agree (MD)
  14. 1R01AG032420-01A1 -- Impairment Activity Staging -- Margaret Grace Stineman (PA)
  15. 3K01AG028582-03S1 -- Perceptions of Social Usefulness/Value as Predictors of Health in Older Adults -- Tara Lynn Gruenewald (CA)


 
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