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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Hope for Alzheimer's?

Published February 2, 2009 5:08 PM by Lauren Fritsky

Preview: CSM 2009


There was a time when individuals with dementia were excluded from rehabilitation research studies because of their cognitive deficits. But in recent years, researchers have begun including this population in studies which increasingly show that exercise can have positive cognitive effects.


Medical University of Kansas researchers, for instance, have participated in neuroimaging studies organized by the Alzheimer's and Memory Project at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, KA, and the Neuropsychology and Aging Laboratory at the Lawrence campus. The work, funded by the National Institute on Aging, shows the positive effects of aerobic workouts in seniors with or without a cognitive disorder.


Other research has supported the theory that exercise extends executive function, the set of abilities including basic functions like processing speed, response speed and working memory. Exercise may affect the brain cognitively in several ways, say Sandra Aamodt, editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience and Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton University in New Jersey.

CSM will address this topic at a session called “Alzeheimer’s Disease and Exercise: Evidence and Anecdotes” on Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. 


Since people are living longer today, the chances that a physical therapist will encounter a patient with Alzheimer’s are higher. Speaker Julie Deanne Ries, PT, PhD, GCS, of Arlington, VA, will review the evidence on exercise programs for individuals with Alzheimer’s, offer practical suggestions for creating and carrying out exercise interventions and suggest appropriate outcome measures for assessing their effectiveness.


Have you worked with patients with dementia or Alzheimer's? Have you mental as well as physical gains? 



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