Study aiming to slow cognitive decline in older adults gets $1.5M boost


By Lawson Institute Communications

The first large-scale Canadian clinical trial using personalized lifestyle intervention delivered at home to help older adults with mild cognitive impairment is getting underway with support from a Weston Foundation grant of $1.5 million.

Led by Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso and his team at Lawson Health Research Institute and part of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), the SYNERGIC-2 trial will provide virtual, at-home interventions to 550 study participants with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), including personalized one-on-one coaching, to help make lifestyle and behavioural changes.

Manuel_Montero_Odasso-300x300.jpgDr. Manuel Montero-Odasso

Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. There is growing evidence that physical activity, cognitive training and addressing cardiovascular factors could delay or prevent the decline to dementia.

These interventions will target five areas including physical exercise, cognitive training, diet recommendations, sleep interventions and vascular risk factor management, with the goal of enhancing health and maintaining independence for individuals at risk for developing dementia.

“There are important risk factors related to exercise, diet, sleep and socialization,” said Montero-Odasso, Lawson scientist and geriatrician at Parkwood Institute, and professor in the Department of Medicine, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “If we can make the brain a little healthier with multiple lifestyle interventions, we may be able to delay or even prevent dementia.” 

The year-long study includes 35 researchers from across Canada recruiting a diverse population of older adults with MCI across 10 Canadian cities. They are currently looking for participants ages 60-85 with MCI and additional dementia risk factors.

“Importantly, we have created a digital platform to deliver these interventions at home with effective coaching strategies that will help to overcome barriers like difficulty accessing intervention sites in rural/remote areas or lack of time to attend to gym sessions,” said Montero-Odasso.

“There are many Canadians who are at high risk of developing dementia, based on their family history and genetics,” explained Dr. Howard Chertkow, chair of Cognitive Neurology and Innovation at Baycrest Health Sciences, scientific director at CCNA and a co-investigator on the study. “Other risk factors include having high blood pressure, diabetes. We have seen that we can reduce the risk of getting dementia if we can get people to improve their lifestyles in multiple ways.”

The trial builds upon the successful SYNERGIC-1 trial that used face-to-face interventions, expanding it by delivering them remotely using digital technology. The study is part of a global initiative known as World-Wide FINGERS, an interdisciplinary network working on the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Those interested in taking part can contact: for additional details.