Our Memories Make Us Who We Are.
This sentiment is often traced back to the philosopher John Locke who argued that identity is founded on consciousness and memory rather than the existence of a physical body or a soul. Whether you agree with this or not, we all agree that losing cognitive ability, including our short- and long-term memory, is something that has a significant impact on both the individual and population level, specifically among the elderly.
Dementia is the general term used to refer to the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities. Most of us are familiar with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of dementia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 6 million individuals in the United States over the age of 65 are living with dementia. This translates to approximately 600,000 individuals 65 and older in Florida whose lives are impacted by this collection of diseases. As the U.S. population continues to age, the impact of dementia on health and wellness will steadily increase as well. We can also expect there will be an increase in the economic burden to our health care system. As such, there is a pressing need to explore ways to slow and prevent the development of diseases that cause cognitive impairment and dementia. We are excited to share that the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville has significantly ramped up our efforts in this important fight.
Adam Woods, PhD, an associate professor of clinical and health psychology in UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions, built a research program focused on noninvasive interventions to enhance cognitive function in older adults. In 2019, Dr. Woods partnered with other institutions nationwide to open the Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training study, or PACT. The PACT study is a multi-site, intervention trial funded by the National Institutes of Health to explore whether computerized brain training exercises can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. To date, PACT is currently the largest study of its kind and will ultimately explore not only how to prevent dementia but how to detect it earlier as well.