The C. Rex and Ruth H. Layton Alzheimer's Research Center at OHSU launched the study in 1989. The trial is unusual because few dementia studies have been conducted with healthy older subjects. Participants must be in good physical and mental condition. In addition, volunteers must not be in need of certain medications, including heart, blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes medications.
Initially, participants undergo two examinations within one month, and then one examination annually. Examinations include a review of the study participant's medical history, a physical exam, tests of mental functioning and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan. Blood tests and electrocardiogram (EKG) are also conducted at the initial visit. All results are forwarded to each participant's primary care physician to assist in their personal care. Transportation to the university and staff escorts to appointments are provided.
One participant, 86-year-old Tom Potter, does his part to keep mentally and physically healthy. As a retired architect, he continues drafting on his computer and walks two miles regularly. Potter has a unique connection with the study - his former wife has Alzheimer's disease.
"Through the study, I receive a brain MRI every year," said Potter. "That gives me a tangible standpoint on my mental health."