Alzheimer’s and related dementias are diseases of aging, yet the oldest among us tend to be excluded from most studies aiming to find treatments for them. Either directly, via exclusion criteria in drug trials, or indirectly, because they are homebound, frail, or lack family members to drive them to appointments, people older than 80 are both the most cut off from interventions to delay dementia, and arguably in greatest need of them. The I-CONECT project, led by Hiroko Dodge of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, arose in response.
- In I-CONECT, MoCA scores rose among people with MCI who received regular video chats.
- Memory function drove this benefit.
- These video chats, even a weekly phone call, improved social satisfaction.
This internet-based conversational engagement trial gave people older than 75 easy-to-use tablets, through which they held regular video chats for a year. A control group received a brief weekly phone call to check in. At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, held July 31 to August 4 in San Diego, Dodge and other OHSU scientists reported that cognitive scores improved in people with mild cognitive impairment who chatted regularly via video, while feelings of social connectedness grew among all participants, even those who received only a weekly call.
The findings support the idea that social contact can stave off cognitive decline, said Dodge. She believes social engagement delays cognitive decline not by thwarting neuropathology, but by bolstering cognitive reserve. Functional MRI scans from a small subset of I-CONECT participants hint that a boost in synaptic connectivity may underlie this.
Other findings presented at AAIC supported the benefit of exercise, and of multimodal lifestyle interventions, in warding off cognitive deterioration (see Part 1 of this story). Even among these more intense interventions, it seemed that social engagement played a part. Might a simple conversation via video chat four times per week provide some benefit on its own? In a session dedicated to I-CONECT at AAIC, researchers presented findings on primary, secondary, and exploratory endpoints of this Phase 2 trial.
Read the article in full on the Alz Forum website – https://www.alzforum.org/news/conference-coverage/chat-every-other-day-keeps-dementia-bay
Hear about more Science from ther AAIC22 in our podcast – Podcast – AAIC 2022 Day One