Jacksonville, Fla. – The University of North Florida will be the third largest site out of six research-focused universities across the U.S. chosen to participate in the Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training (PACT) study.
The UNF portion of the grant, $5 million expected across five years, represents the largest competitive grant in the University’s history and was awarded to Dr. Jody Nicholson, UNF psychology associate professor, who will lead the UNF PACT study.
The overall $44.4 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Aging will be apportioned to the participating universities as they open their PACT study sites, with the majority of the grant going to the University of South Florida (USF), one of the sites where the study originated over 15 years ago.
USF site principal investigator Dr. Jerri Edwards, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, in acknowledging the government’s support, says a multi-million-dollar grant of this size demonstrates the importance of the PACT study.
Dementia is the most expensive medical condition in the U.S. which creates an urgent need to intervene to curb the increasing prevalence of the disease in our society. Strong preliminary data from more than 18 randomized clinical trials have demonstrated that a particular type of computerized training known as cognitive training can improve cognition and transfer to improving everyday activities. Recent evidence further indicates that such cognitive training may reduce dementia risk.
“Almost everyone knows someone who has been touched by this disease and people want to be part of the solution because they understand how serious this problem is,” said Dr. Nicholson. “That’s why we want community members to know they are vital to this effort. This is a significant project of the Jacksonville community and we’ll be working through the region to connect with communities and convey the importance of people signing up to participate in the PACT study. If people will encourage their neighbors, friends, and family members to participate then we will be successful in getting one step closer to preventing dementia.”
The key to a successful outcome is to recruit volunteers from the community who would like to improve their cognitive abilities while being part of important scientific research with the potential to prevent dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The total UNF recruitment goal is 1001 Jacksonville area participants.
To qualify, volunteers must be 65 and older with no signs of cognitive impairment or dementia. There is an emphasis on the need for African American and Hispanic study volunteers as these populations are at the highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
PACT participants will receive initial instruction in how to participate in the computerized training exercises that will require two in-person study visits. The remainder of the computerized training exercises will be conducted remotely for a total of 25 hours over six weeks. At the one-year mark, participants will return to the study site for two “booster” sessions, and again after two years. Upon the third year, evaluations will be performed.
Participating in the PACT study aligns with UNF’s distinction of being a Carnegie Foundation's Community Engagement Classification institution. In upholding that designation, the greater Jacksonville region will play a crucial role in the PACT study and the future of Alzheimer’s research.
About University of North Florida
The University of North Florida is a nationally ranked university located on a beautiful 1,381-acre campus in Jacksonville surrounded by nature. Serving more than 17,000 students, UNF features six colleges of distinction with innovative programs in high-demand fields. UNF students receive individualized attention from faculty and gain valuable real-world experience engaging with community partners. A top public university, UNF prepares students to make a difference in Florida and around the globe. Learn more at www.unf.edu.
The PACT grant is supported under Award Number R01AG070349, from the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. This content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.