NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (KFSN) -- Which comes first: does exercise lead to better brain health? Or is it the other way around? Can improving a senior's mental capacity by playing brain games help increase his or her mobility?
Seventy-three-year-old Marlene Ray knows all too well that aging is tough on the body and the mind.
Ray said, "My sister-in-law suffers with dementia, so I want to know what I can do to help anybody I can while my mind is still sharp."
Ray is one of more than 400 seniors being recruited by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine for C-REM, the Cognitive Remediation to Improve Mobility study.
Joe Verghese, MBBS, MS, Professor of Neurology and of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain, Chief, Division of Cognitive & Motor Aging and Geriatrics at Einstein and Montefiore said, "It's based on the idea that to walk in the real world you need to engage your whole brain." (Read Full Interview)
Three days a week, for 45 minutes, half of the seniors in the study play computerized brain games that target the areas of the brain important to mobility and executive function, the prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia, and the connections between.
Participants then perform timed walking and cognition tests, seeing how long it takes to walk a runway, while reciting alternate letters of the alphabet. Or finding a way out of a floor maze, while keeping one foot on a yellow guideline. Ray, who performs with her church, says since beginning the program she's seen big improvement in movement and memory.
Ray explained, "I did a show with my choir in December, and I had to remember 12 songs."
Verghese said, "We hope to see at the end of the trial we've reduced the amount of effort the brain has to do while walking, in other words, making the brain more efficient."
As part of the study, scientists are also using specialized scanners to measure brain activity. An earlier, small pilot program showed participants who played the brain games improved their walking. This large randomized trial is expected to run through 2020.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field and Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.