NIH Awards $3.4 Million Grant to Help Older People Stay Mobile

NIH has awarded a $3.4 million grant to Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, both affiliated with Yeshiva University in New York, to identify cognitive factors that influence mobility in older people — in particular, those that could be modified to help older people remain active.

“Mobility limitations and disability in aging are major public health concerns,” Roee Holtzer, PhD, principal investigator for the study and associate professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein and associate professor of psychology at Ferkauf, stated in a press release. “We will recruit 450 people age 70 and older for baseline and annual follow-ups over the 5-year study period.”

Participants enrolled in the National Institute on Aging grant will undergo clinical, neuropsychological and physical exams as well as state-of-the-art cognitive and neuroimaging assessments. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy technology, developed by the optical engineering group at Drexel University in Philadelphia, will be used to assess changes in brain function during various walking conditions.

“Ideally, these assessments will reveal specific cognitive abilities and brain structures and functions that correlate with mobility problems or that predict their occurrence,” Holtzer stated. “Then we want to see whether efforts to modify those factors, which include the ability to concentrate and allocate attention resources to competing task demands, can help in preventing mobility decline and disability in these individuals.”

The project, which began in March, is an interdisciplinary collaboration involving Einstein’s neurology and epidemiology and population health departments and its Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center; Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology; and the optical engineering group at Drexel University.

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