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Detecting Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear may help prevention efforts

The University of North Florida is seeking healthy older adults to volunteer for the Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training (PACT) study. This landmark study examines whether computerized brain training exercises can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Additional funding of $3.2 million was awarded to further investigate if Alzheimer’s disease can be detected early through simple blood tests. The grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health expands UNF’s PACT study.  The PACT study will now work with the National Centralized Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias to analyze blood specimens collected from study participants.

The PACT study is recruiting volunteers aged 65 and older with no signs of cognitive impairment or dementia. Those interested in the study may participate in initial testing at the University of North Florida.  Participants may also join the study at the University of South Florida, University of Florida, Clemson University, or Duke University. PACT participants may now volunteer to provide blood samples that will be used to develop tests for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We need 1,300 healthy older adults to volunteer for the PACT study. We have reached 31% of our goal with the help of our generous volunteers from the greater Jacksonville area who have already joined our fight against Alzheimer’s disease by enrolling in PACT,” said UNF Site Principal Investigator Jody Nicholson PhD, who is a professor of psychology. “Not only will our participants help expand our work to potentially prevent dementia, but they will also play an important role in advancing research on the early detection of Alzheimer’s through the development of blood tests.”

When speaking about the importance of community-based research, Dr. Nicholson added: “I am excited to be contributing to the Longest Day Event created by the Alzheimer’s Association, in which members of the Jacksonville community will come together to shed light on the darkness of Alzheimer’s. In collaboration with the UNF Lufrano Intercultural Gallery, a series of artworks will be displayed starting on June 21st honoring those who have been touched by dementia.”

More information is available at the PACT study website at, or by calling (904) 620-4263.

Studies like PACT take on increased urgency because no proven treatments yet exist to cure or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Existing methods of diagnosing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease require expensive PET scans or invasive cerebrospinal fluid samples, but scientists are now working toward developing simple blood tests to replace the existing methods.

The PACT study concentrates on the effectiveness of computerized programs, or brain games, for preventing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. At the end of the PACT trial, the scientists will examine the blood samples from willing participants and determine which specific blood-based biomarkers predict Alzheimer’s disease, the severity of the disease, and/or responsiveness to treatment.

The PACT study is supported by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant number R01AG070349. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.