Innovative approach combines non-invasive brain stimulation, cognitive
TORONTO, May 1, 2014 /CNW/ - The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
(CAMH) has been awarded the largest-ever grant for Alzheimer's disease
prevention in Canada, for a study which will apply recent advances in
brain science to clinical treatment. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Montreal today.
"We're intervening at an earlier stage among people who do not have
Alzheimer's dementia but are at high risk of developing it," says Dr. Benoit H. Mulsant, CAMH Physician-in-Chief and lead investigator of the study. "Our
approach will stimulate neurons in the brain and strengthen cognitive
skills, which we hope will prevent the brain damage associated with
Alzheimer's, and prevent or delay the diagnosis."
Thanks to unprecedented support from the Brain Canada Chagnon Fund of almost $10 million over five years, the research team will be
studying a combination of a painless brain stimulation treatment,
called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), with memory and
problem solving exercises, known as cognitive remediation.
"The treatments we currently have for Alzheimer's dementia are usually
initiated when the patient is diagnosed, at which point the brain is
already damaged," says Dr. Mulsant, "so the treatments don't work very
Two groups of people known to be at high risk of developing Alzheimer's
will be included in the study: 250 older adults with clinical
depression who have been successfully treated with antidepressants, and
125 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a noticeable decline
in memory and thinking abilities. Individuals will be randomly assigned
to receive this intervention, or a sham or placebo intervention and
their outcomes will be compared for up to five years.
The study is called PACt-MD (Preventing Alzheimer's dementia with Cognitive remediation plus tDCS
in MCI and Depression). PACt-MD will draw participants from five major
Toronto hospitals. In addition to CAMH, Baycrest, St. Michael's
Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University Health
Network are collaborating.
"We believe that this intervention will be more beneficial than the
comparison placebo group in acutely improving cognition and then
slowing down its decline over time, and in preventing the onset of
Alzheimer's dementia," says Dr. Tarek Rajji, Chief of Geriatric Psychiatry at CAMH, one of the co-lead
investigators of PACt-MD at CAMH with Dr. Bruce G. Pollock, Vice
In 2011, 747,000 Canadians were living with dementia, and this number is
projected to increase to 1.4 million by 2031. There are a number of
risk factors that can lead to dementia, but not all can be targeted in
prevention efforts. Major depression has been identified as the second
most promising target for studies that try to prevent Alzheimer's,
after lack of physical activity.
PACt-MD also involves a series of lab-based tests involving genetics and
brain imaging to study both genetic factors as well as brain changes
associated with the intervention.
If this combination approach is beneficial in older persons with either
mild cognitive impairment or depression, then it can be further tested
in the general population or in other populations at high risk for
Alzheimer's disease, notes Dr. Mulsant.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest
mental health and addiction teaching hospital, and one of the world's
leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care,
research, education, policy development and health promotion to help
transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction
issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and
is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization
Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit www.camh.ca.
SOURCE: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
For further information:
Media contact: Kate Richards, CAMH Media Relations, 416-595-6015; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org