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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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UMD Study Finds Connecting Uninsured Patients to Primary Care Could Reduce ER Use

May 6, 2015

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418
Hillery Tsumba 301-628-3425

Montgomery County, Md. Initiative Could Improve Health, Reduce Costs

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – An intervention to connect low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to a reliable source of primary health care shows promise for reducing avoidable use of hospital emergency departments in Maryland. A University of Maryland School of Public Health study evaluating the results of the intervention was published this week in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs

For twenty years, use of hospital emergency departments has been on the rise in the United States, particularly among low-income patients who face barriers to accessing health care outside of hospitals, including not having an identifiable primary health care provider. Almost half of emergency room visits are considered “avoidable.” The Emergency Department-Primary Care Connect Initiative of the Primary Care Coalition, which ran from 2009 through 2011, linked low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to safety-net health clinics. 

“Our study found that uninsured patients with chronic health issues – such as those suffering from hypertension, diabetes, asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, depression or anxiety – relied less on the emergency department after they were linked to a local health clinic for ongoing care,” says Dr. Karoline Mortensen, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and senior researcher. “Connecting patients to primary care and expanding the availability of these safety-net clinics could reduce emergency department visits and provide better continuity of care for vulnerable populations.”  

Funded by a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the initiative engaged all five of the hospitals operating in Montgomery County, Maryland at the time, and four safety-net clinics serving low-income patients. Using “patient navigators,” individuals trained to help patients find the care they need and can afford, these hospitals referred more than 10,000 low-income, uninsured and Medicaid patients who visited emergency departments to four local primary care clinics, with the goal of encouraging them to establish an ongoing relationship with the clinic and reduce their reliance on costly emergency department care. 

Two hospitals in Montgomery County who participated in the intervention continued the program after the initial grant period concluded because of the benefits they saw for patients and for reducing emergency department visits and associated costs. These hospitals are currently testing a new version of the intervention specifically deigned to link emergency department patients with behavioral health conditions to appropriate community-based services. 

While hospital administrators and health policy experts throughout the country are recognizing that access to primary care improves continuity of care for patients and reduces avoidable use of emergency departments, the implications of this project are particularly important for hospitals in Maryland, which are now operating under a unique all-payer model for hospital payments. Within this new payment structure, Maryland hospitals will have to meet ambitious spending, quality of care, and population health goals. Reducing avoidable use of emergency departments can help in reaching these goals.

The project provides promise not only for hospitals in Maryland but throughout the nation to improve health care experiences and outcomes for their patients. Shared learning systems were an integral component of the project so participants were learning from each other and sharing best practices throughout the project and that learning has now been documented and can be replicated in other communities.

“This was an incredibly rewarding project to work on,” says Barbara H. Eldridge, Manager of Quality Improvement at the Primary Care Coalition. “We created a learning system that permits us to sustain improved communication between patients and their providers, between hospital discharge planners and community based clinics, and across five hospitals operating in Montgomery County.” The initiative has proven successful in Montgomery County, Maryland and is being replicated in communities in other parts of the country. 

“Linking Uninsured Patients Treated In The Emergency Department To Primary Care Shows Some Promise In Maryland” was written by Theresa Y. Kim, Karoline Mortensen, and Barbara Eldridge and published in the journal Health Affairs

University Launches Dynamic, Interactive Information Website UMD Right Now

December 4, 2012

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618 crystalb@umd.edu

College Park, Md. – Today, the University of Maryland launched a brand-new multimedia news and information portal, UMD Right Now, which provides members of the media and the public with real-time information on the university and its extended community.

UMD Right Now replaces Newsdesk, which previously served as the university’s news hub and central resource for members of the media. The new site is aimed at reaching broader audiences and allows visitors to keep up with the latest Maryland news and events, view photos and videos and connect with the university across all of its social media platforms.

“We designed UMD Right Now to be a comprehensive, vibrant site where visitors can find new and exciting things happening at Maryland,” said Linda Martin, executive director, Web and New Media Strategies. “Through social media, video, photos and news information, we hope to engage visitors and compel the community to explore all that Maryland has to offer.”

The new website, umdrightnow.umd.edu, contains up-to-date news releases and announcements, facts and figures about the university, a searchable database of faculty and staff experts, information highlighting innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, additional resources for news media and other campus and athletics news.

“UMD RightNow is the place to go to find out all the things happening on and around campus on any given day,” said Crystal Brown, chief communications officer. “This website brings real-time news, events and information right to your fingertips.”

For more information and contact information for the Office of University Communications, please visit umdrightnow.umd.edu.

UMD Faculty Helps Develop Method to Encourage Worldwide Wetlands Restoration

November 24, 2015

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

New methodology to incentivize funding streams for coastal wetland restoration projects

ENST Associate Professor Brian Needelman (third from left) works with a group of students, staff and volunteers sampling soils at a marsh at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, MD.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A team of scientists, including Associate Professor Brian Needelman from the University of Maryland’s Department of Environmental Science and Technology, has developed a method for measuring the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere achieved through coastal wetland restoration. The methodology, approved Tuesday, November 24th by the Verified Carbon Standard, will make it possible for these types of environmentally beneficial restoration projects to receive funding around the world.

Coastal wetlands – which include salt marsh, seagrass, mangroves and other tidal wetlands – are some of the most productive habitats in the world. In addition to providing critical fish habitat, improving water quality, and protecting the coastline from storms, coastal wetlands also remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. This carbon (referred to as “blue carbon”) is then stored in the ground, where it can remain for centuries or more, as long as the habitat is not degraded or destroyed. 

However, development pressures, polluted runoff and sea-level rise has caused the loss of 50 percent of U.S. wetlands since the 1800s. Globally, coastal wetland loss is estimated to be between 0.7-7 percent a year, and restoration projects are largely underfunded, despite the myriad of benefits these habitats provide. As coastal habitat is destroyed, the carbon stored in its soil may be emitted back into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change. 

This landmark methodology provides the procedures for how to calculate, report, and verify greenhouse gas reductions for tidal wetland restoration projects globally. Now, projects such as removing tidal barriers, improving water quality to increase seagrass habitat, beneficial use of dredged material, and reintroducing native plant communities will be eligible to earn carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market, generating new sources of funding. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time with coastal wetlands. I love them. They provide so many ecosystem services and are just beautiful ecosystems themselves,” says Needelman, PhD, who has spent a decade researching coastal wetlands and the last four helping to develop the methodology. “Unfortunately, coastal wetlands are vanishing globally at unprecedented rates. This methodology is one way we can help people who want to do something to reverse this trend by giving them a tool that will make securing funding easier.”

Carbon credits are purchased by companies or individuals to offset the emissions they can’t reduce. Thanks to this new methodology, companies can purchase carbon credits to support coastal habitat projects that provide a climate benefit.

In addition to Dr. Needelman, who is listed as second author, the methodology was developed by Dr. Igino Emmer from Silvestrum, Steve Emmett-Mattox from Restore America’s Estuaries, Dr. Steve Crooks from Environmental Science Associates, Dr. Pat Megonigal from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Doug Myers from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Matthew Oreska from the University of Virginia, Dr. Karen McGlathery from the University of Virginia and David Shoch from Terracarbon.

Needelman’s research was funded in large part by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Power Plant Research Program. The methodology development was led by Restore America’s Estuaries with financial support from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative (under the Bringing Wetlands to Market: Nitrogen and Coastal Blue Carbon Project), The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Habitat Conservation, The Ocean Foundation, The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, and KBR.

UMD Bioscience Day Brings Together Researchers, Venture Capitalists & Entrepreneurs

November 24, 2015

Elise Carbonaro 301-405-6501 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland’s annual Bioscience Day event held on campus last week offered researchers the opportunity to present their innovations and explain why they matter to the world.

As part of Bioscience Day 2015, a Professor Venture Fair showcased faculty and student inventions to investors and entrepreneurs, providing researchers with the chance to get commercialization advice and establish connections with potential partners and businesses. Associate Vice President for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Dean Chang moderated the fair. The panel of judges was comprised of Ken Malone, Matt Cohen, James Hoberg, and Matthew Miessau.

Five presenters—with inventions that ranged from a tool that can predict the outcome of cancer treatment to a sensor device and cloud-based system that can reduce lower back injuries—were selected to present their work at the Venture Fair.

Best Pitch Winner Shuwei Li (center) with Office of Technology Commercialization Executive Director Gayatri Varma and UMD Associate Vice President for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Dean Chang.High-Affinity Reagents and Methods for Next Generation Protein Sequencing
Best Pitch Winner

Shuwei Li, an assistant professor with the UMD Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, presented his new and innovative reagents and methods for protein sequencing. Li developed a method to detect proteins of low abundance that cannot be amplified easily, unlike nucleic acids present in DNA.

“Like next generation DNA sequencing that has made $1K genome possible and revolutionized medicine and agriculture, the next generation protein sequencing will have broad impacts on clinical diagnostics and precision medicine,” said Li. His technology is also a step ahead of current technologies because it enables the detection of how individual cells respond to drugs.

Multifunctional biodegradable carriers for drug delivery

Also at the UMD Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, Research Professor Alexander Andrianov developed multifunctional polymers that can carry drugs and vaccines, and are chemically diverse, biodegradable, and water-soluble. Using the polyphosphazene synthetic platform, the polymer systems find wide applications.  

“Today, there is an unmet need for new biocompatible carriers to improve efficacy and safety of therapeutics and vaccines,” Andrianov said. “[The Bioscience Day Professor Venture Fair] is a great opportunity to share our vision of the technology.”

Predicting Success of Pharmaceuticals for Cancer Treatment Using Synthetic Rescues

A team of scientists developed a tool that can actually predict the success rates of certain cancer treatment methods and help patients by suggesting which treatment methods won’t work. The software actually uses individual genomic profiles and compares the genetic profile being analyzed to existing profiles and treatment outcomes.

“With the recently available large collection of patient tumor samples, we developed a novel computational technique to identify genetic interactions in whole-genome scale and capitalize them to design optimal treatments for individual cancer patients,” said Joo Sang Lee from the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS).

The new precision medicine approach could personalize cancer treatment and enhance drug development, putting it in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies, Lee said. Lee has worked with Eytan Ruppin, professor of computer science and director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology to develop the technology, which Lee presented at Bioscience Day.

Topical Treatment for Gonorrhea

Wenxia Song, a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, developed a way of inhibiting the bacteria that causes gonorrhea by identifying the very method the bacteria uses to attack and cause disease.

”Our solution (not based on an antibiotic) can prevent and treat drug-resistant gonorrhea, which is an asymptomatic and urgent threat according to CDC,” said Mark Wang, who completed his Ph.D. at UMD and worked with Song. Wang said that the method could prevent disease in both men and women.

A Sensor Device and Cloud-Based System to Reduce Lower Back Injury in the Workforce

Marc Cohen, visiting assistant research scientist in the Institute for Systems Research (ISR), presented ErgonometriX, a personal wearable device and cloud-based system that can reduce lower back injury. The simple device can be worn by workers and has a sensor that captures physical movement and sends data to a cloud. The data is then analyzed using algorithms to suggest better methods to alter lifting, carrying and other physical demands to lower risk of back problems.

“By providing feedback to the employers' ergonomics officers, workers’ behaviors can be altered over time to eliminate at-risk maneuvers,” Cohen explained. “This is a great honor and opportunity to show the UMD community what we are doing and gain exposure to potential investors.”

UMD Study Explains Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Unintended Pregnancy

November 23, 2015

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A new study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health examined why African American and Hispanic women have higher rates of unintended pregnancy than White women. 

Researchers found that there were unique factors explaining the differences in unintended pregnancy between African Americans and Whites—respondent’s mother’s age at first birth, income, and health insurance status—and the differences between Hispanics and Whites—U.S. born status and educational level. Maternal age and marital status differences also explained both racial and ethnic disparities. 

The study provides evidence in support of culturally-tailored public health interventions targeted to groups of women that may be younger, unmarried, lower-income, less-educated, non-U.S. born, or uninsured or publicly insured. 

Dr. Dagher, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and senior author on the study“Preventing unintended pregnancy should be a public health priority. In the United States, 51 percent of all pregnancies are unintended, and these happen disproportionately among racial and ethnic minorities,” said Dr. Rada Dagher, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and senior author on the study. “Our study showed that there are modifiable factors such as health insurance status and education that can be targeted by policymakers to reduce these disparities.” 

This study is the first to use Fairlie decomposition analyses to investigate the reasons behind racial and ethnic disparities in unintended pregnancy. This statistical method helps with understanding the specific factors that explain the differences in rates of unintended pregnancy between African Americans and Whites, or Hispanics and Whites, and what percent of the difference each factor explains. It is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Dagher’s prior research has shown that women with unintended pregnancies take the shortest maternity leaves, which may have a detrimental impact on their health and the health of their babies. Other studies have shown that women with unintended pregnancies report increased levels of stress and depression, delayed prenatal care, increased likelihood of smoking and drinking during pregnancy, and are more likely to experience psychological and physical abuse. 

“The fact that African American and Hispanic women have even higher rates of unintended pregnancy than Whites (63 percent and 48 percent versus 42 percent, respectively) underscores the importance of tailoring multilevel interventions that address the underlying causes of the disparities,” Dr. Dagher said. 

The study utilizes 2006-2010 data from the National Survey of Family Growth, collected by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors analyzed data on 3,557 pregnancies that occurred before 36 months had passed between the interview and conception months. They chose this time span to reduce recall bias of unintended pregnancies. This analytical sample included 1,017 African American women (28 percent), 967 Hispanic women (27 percent), and 1,593 White women (45 percent). The authors applied the Fairlie decomposition analysis to determine how intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, community, and public policy factors explain the racial and ethnic disparities in unintended pregnancy.

Being single and younger than 20 years old at the time of conception contributed to the differences in unintended pregnancy between African American and White women, and between Hispanic and White women. Earning below 100 percent Federal Poverty Level (FPL) compared to 200 percent FPL or higher, having public insurance versus private insurance, and respondent’s mother being 25 years or younger contributed to the differences in unintended pregnancy between African American and White women. On the other hand, not being born in the U.S. and not having a Bachelor’s degree contributed to the differences between Hispanic and White women. The analytical model explained 51 percent of the difference in unintended pregnancy between African American and White women, and 73 percent of the difference between Hispanic and White women. 

The study concludes that interventions to reduce unintended pregnancy should target at-risk groups of women such as younger, unmarried, lower income, lower educated, non-U.S. born women, and those with public insurance. One potential policy intervention relates to women’s health insurance coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health plans must cover women’s preventive care, including contraceptives without cost sharing. Moreover, Medicaid has expanded in 30 states, including Washington, D.C. 

“Our study only included data between 2006 and 2010; thus, it would be interesting to explore whether there are decreases in unintended pregnancy and related racial and ethnic disparities with the ACA’s removal of cost sharing and with Medicaid expansions,” Dr. Dagher added.

Northrop Grumman Foundation Renews Commitment to UMD's Honors College Cybersecurity Program with $2.76M Gift

November 23, 2015

Crystal Brown, UMD, 301-405-4618
Mark Root, Northrop Grumman, 703-280-2739

Funding Will Spur Program Growth by Supporting Additional Staffing, Programming,
Scholarships and Facilities for Upperclassmen

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland today announced a renewed commitment of $2.76 million from the Northrop Grumman Foundation to its Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES) program. 

The ACES program – the nation’s first honors program in cybersecurity – was launched by UMD's Honors College in 2012 with support from the Northrop Grumman Foundation to address a critical, national strategic need. Since its inception, the ACES program has offered 65 percent more credits than originally targeted and served 50 percent more students than originally anticipated. ACES began as a living-learning program for freshman and sophomore students. With this renewed commitment, the program will now expand to offer a more advanced cybersecurity curriculum to juniors and seniors, culminating in an ACES minor.

"The support that the Northrop Grumman Foundation has committed in support of the ACES program shows how important this type of workforce is to the nation," says Mary Ann Rankin, UMD's senior vice president and provost. "This generous gift will allow us to continue to educate and train our students to be future cybersecurity leaders and meet the growing needs in the nation and state."

"We are delighted with the growth of the ACES program and the surge of interest among students from several dozen different disciplines at the University of Maryland," says Sandra Evers-Manly, President, Northrop Grumman Foundation. "We hope that our continued support will help the program reach and attract an even greater and more diverse population of students."

The gift from the Northrop Grumman Foundation will allow ACES to prepare a larger, more diverse student body for leadership roles in this burgeoning field through extended instruction and program administration; an enhanced experiential learning environment; scholarships for recruiting and retaining a diverse, high-achieving student body; and dedicated spaces on campus for the ACES program to thrive. 

"The ACES curriculum delivers a unique, interdisciplinary perspective of cybersecurity across many sectors with an emphasis on experiential learning. This breadth of expertise is a crucial foundation for the program's success in forming future cybersecurity leaders," says ACES Director Michel Cukier. "The support from Northrop Grumman will allow us to expand our current breadth by hiring full-time instructors and engaging experts from industry and government, developing a larger infrastructure for experiential learning and in turn, giving us the ability to adapt to cybersecurity’s changing demands."

One of the highest priorities of the Honors College is to recruit an academically high-achieving and diverse student body. With the additional funding, UMD will expand its recruitment efforts, including collaboration with the UMD ROTC programs and campus veterans, increased visibility in Maryland community colleges, and investment in K-12 cybersecurity-related programs. 

In addition, the Northrop Grumman ACES Scholarship Program will offer scholarships to first-generation college students and those with financial need, as well as veteran, ROTC and transfer students. New scholarship funds will also support study-abroad opportunities, and travel to national conferences and competitions. 

The Honors College will also launch a new ACES cybersecurity lab. This research-grade facility will offer upper-level students fully isolated, state-of-the-art technology and software to model the latest security challenges through direct instruction, team-building activities and independent and group study.

The University of Maryland was recently awarded the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities' top award – the Connections Award – which honors an institution working to build connections between innovation and entrepreneurship, talent development, and social, community and cultural development. UMD was named a winner in part for its ACES partnership with the Northrop Grumman Foundation to help supply trained workers to serve the cyber community.

To learn more about the ACES program, visit www.aces.umd.edu

About the Honors College
The Honors College is home to UMD’s highly acclaimed living-learning programs for students with exceptional academic talents. The Honors College welcomes students into a close-knit community of faculty and intellectually gifted undergraduates committed to acquiring a broad and balanced education. The Honors College features small classes taught by an outstanding faculty who encourage discussion and foster innovative thinking. For more information, visit www.honors.umd.edu.

Early Childhood Exposure to Medicaid Linked to Better Adult Health

November 20, 2015

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Expanding publicly funded health insurance to low-income children could have long-term benefits for adult health, according to new research from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Published in the Journal of Health Economics, the study found that exposure to Medicaid in early childhood, from conception through age 5, is associated with significant improvements in adult health (age 25 to 54). The research suggests that the improvement in health may be linked to greater access to and use of health services by children whose families received Medicaid, and a decreased economic burden on families from medical expenses and debt. 

“There’s growing recognition that what happens to you as a child is carried with you throughout life,” said Dr. Michel H. Boudreaux, lead researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at UMD. “Investing in young children could have important payoffs and our study suggests that the benefits of Medicaid may persist for decades into the future.”

Considerable research has shown short-term benefits from health programs for low-income children, but little research has examined the long-term effects of Medicaid and similar programs on health and economic status. Medicaid is a major federal program that provides coverage to 35 percent (28 million) of children under age 19 (according to a 2013 study) and accounts for 8 percent of all federal spending (according to a 2012 study). As the Affordable Care Act has led to expansion of Medicaid in some states, while others states have opted out, understanding the long-term effects of investments in children’s health is of increasing importance.

Capitalizing on the staggered roll-out of Medicaid across US states, largely in the late 1960s Dr. Boudreaux and his colleagues were able to isolate Medicaid’s impact during early childhood on the midlife health and economic status of low-income children. Rather than examine individual families’ use of Medicaid services, researchers compared the period of time from conception to sixth birthday that low-income children were eligible for Medicaid. Using data on adults from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, researchers compared cohorts who had no opportunity to receive Medicaid in early childhood, some exposure, and full exposure from conception through age five.

Greater exposure to Medicaid during early childhood was associated with a significant and meaningful improvement in midlife health using a composite index that combines information on high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease/heart attack, and obesity. Low-income children’s exposure to Medicaid throughout early childhood relative to no exposure is associated with a 22 percent decrease in the prevalence of high blood pressure among adults. Researchers also examined the economic impact of exposure to Medicaid in early childhood on adult economic status, but were unable to show a significant association.

Dr. Boudreaux points to two mechanisms that link early childhood Medicaid exposure to adult health outcomes: childhood health service use and family medical debt. Researchers found that Medicaid exposure increased hospital usage by low-income children four percent during early childhood and that Medicaid’s introduction is associated with a decrease in medical debt in households that have children, freeing up resources that could be invested in kids in other ways. 

“The Long-Term Impacts of Medicaid Exposure in Early Childhood: Evidence from the Program’s Origin” was written by Michel H. Boudreaux, Ezra Golberstein, and Donna D. McAlpine and published in the Journal of Health Economics on November 19, 2015.

Terps Against Hunger

November 20, 2015

Did you know 1 in 6 households doesn't have enough food? Terps Against Hunger is working to change that. During Homecoming week this year, they brought thousands of UMD community members together to package 250,000 meals for local communities in need. #UMDinspires

Improving Fitness May Counteract Brain Atrophy in Older Adults

November 20, 2015

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Older adults that improved their fitness through a moderate intensity exercise program increased the thickness of their brain’s cortex, the outer layer of the brain that typically atrophies with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health.  These effects were found in both healthy older adults and those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. J. Carson Smith, associate professor of kinesiology and senior author of the study“Exercise may help to reverse neurodegeneration and the trend of brain shrinkage that we see in those with MCI and Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. J. Carson Smith, associate professor of kinesiology and senior author of the study, published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society on Nov. 19, 2015. “Many people think it is too late to intervene with exercise once a person shows symptoms of memory loss, but our data suggest that exercise may have a benefit in this early stage of cognitive decline.”

The previously physically inactive participants, ages 61-88, were put on an exercise regimen that included moderate intensity walking on a treadmill four times a week over a twelve-week period. On average, cardiorespiratory fitness improved by about 8 percent as a result of the training in both the healthy and MCI participants.

The atrophy of the brain’s cortical layer is a marker of Alzheimer’s disease progression and correlates with symptoms including cognitive impairment. Dr. Smith and colleagues found that the study participants who showed the greatest improvements in fitness had the most growth in the cortical layer, including both the group diagnosed with MCI and the healthy elders. While both groups showed strong associations between increased fitness and increased cortical thickness after the intervention, the MCI participants showed greater improvements compared to healthy group in the left insula and superior temporal gyrus, two brain regions that have been shown to exhibit accelerated neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking for 30 minutes 3-4 days per week, may protect brain health in older adults.Dr. Smith previously reported that the participants in this exercise intervention showed improvements in neural efficiency during memory recall, and these new data add to the evidence for the positive impact of exercise on cognitive function. Other research he has published has also shown that moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking for 30 minutes 3-4 days per week, may protect brain health by staving off shrinkage of the hippocampus in older adults. 

This is the first study to show that exercise and improved fitness can impact cortical thickness in older adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.  Dr. Smith plans future studies that include more participants engaging in a longer-term exercise intervention to see if greater improvements can be seen over time, and if the effects persist over the long term. The key unanswered question is if regular moderate intensity physical activity could reverse or delay cognitive decline and help keep people out of nursing homes and enable them to maintain their independence as they age.  


November 24
Digital measurements of millions of trees indicate that previous studies likely overestimate the amount of carbon... Read
November 24
New methodology to incentivize funding streams for coastal wetland restoration projects. Read
November 24
Event offered researchers the opportunity to present their innovations and explain why they matter to the world. Read
November 23
Study provides evidence in support of culturally-tailored public health interventions targeted to groups of women that... Read