Findings in brain health research at the Gerontological Society of America’s annual scientific meeting

Just before Thanksgiving, 2016, I attended the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans, LA. At the conference, I shared new findings on perceptions of brain health among older Latinos.

According to our research, older Latinos are not aware of the link between physical activity and brain health. Future intervention design should include education on the link between physical activity and brain health, as well as opportunities for older Latinos to get more active.

As PI of the Illinois PRC’s Healthy Brain Research Network (HBRN) Collaborating Center, I joined Co-Investigator Susan Hughes and members of the HBRN from the University of Washington  and Oregon Health & Science University at the conference. Together, our presentations formed a symposium titled, “Public Health Implications of Physical Activity for Brain Health.”

Ms. Shih-Yin Lin, from the University of Washington, featured results from a review of factors influencing exercise adherence among people with dementia. She found that cognitive impairment alone should not keep those with dementia from participating in exercise.

In another presentation Dr. Raina Croff from Oregon Health & Science University presented an innovative walking program that increases activity, engagement, and awareness of brain health among older African Americans.

Dr. Croff’s findings demonstrate that programs using engagement around neighborhood history and personal narratives may motivate participants to stay engaged longer due to increased sense of purpose, contribution, and value.

The University of Pennsylvania collaborated with the Illinois PRC, the University of Washington, (UPenn), and Oregon Health & Science University for an additional symposium titled, “Evaluating the Acceptability of Public Health Messages to Promote Early Detection of Dementia.” The aim of this proof of concept work is to assess whether UPenn HBRN’s public health messages are acceptable to other audiences around the country. Focus groups were conducted with Latinos in Chicago, African Americans in Portland, LGBTQ individuals in Houston, and Asian Americans in Seattle. Participants across the country liked  some of the same aspects of the messages, such as the focus on the family, and not individuals; but also disliked similar and different aspects of the messages, such as the feeling of being told what to do. For further results of the study…stay tuned!

About the image.  Investigators from the Healthy Brain Research Network gather at the 2016 Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting.


David X. Marquez, PhD. is an Associate Professor in the department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an Adjunct Associate Professor at Rush University Alzheimer’s Disease Center. He enjoys coaching his kids’ sports teams, exercising, and following Chicago sports teams.