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Preventing Alzheimer’s in the Black Community with Cognitive Training

Alzheimer’s disease affects older people of color two to three times more than whites.


More than 6 million Americans are living with dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease with rates expected to reach 13 million by the year 2050. Dementia is an irreversible brain disorder that gradually impairs one’s memory and abilities to accomplish everyday tasks.

The University of North Florida needs 1,001 healthy volunteers from the greater Jacksonville area to join our fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The PACT study is recruiting volunteers aged 65 and older with no signs of cognitive impairment or dementia. Please call (904) 620-4263 or see www.pactstudy.org for more information.

As the prevalence of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease continues to grow, it is important to understand its disproportionate impact on minority communities. Among adults aged 65 and older, persons who are Black/African American face the greatest risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Blacks are 2 times more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia compared to their white counterparts.

Research suggests that a variety of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to these health disparities among the African American community. Although persons who are Black are the most vulnerable to developing Alzheimer’s disease, they are often underrepresented in this area of research. To address these health disparities, representation in clinical research trials is crucial to make progress in treatments to improve the health and well-being of our current and future generations.

Although there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, researchers at the University of North Florida ask the question: “Can Alzheimer’s Disease be prevented?” Funded by the National Institute on Aging, UNF is studying healthy older adults to determine if computerized brain training exercises can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment in the “Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training: PACT” study.

Published research by the PACT study investigators and others indicates that targeted computerized training can help maintain mental and physical function. Healthy older adults who were prescribed 10 sessions of such training had a 29% lower risk of dementia after 10 years. Those completing additional training benefited even more: they were 48% less likely to show signs of dementia 10 years later.

The PACT study seeks more conclusive evidence about whether and how computerized training can protect against age-related cognitive impairment and dementia. The UNF PACT site is led by Dr. Jody Nicholson who is a professor in the UNF Psychology Department with a focus on preventative health behaviors. Based on her extensive experience connecting research to the Jacksonville community, Dr. Nicholson is recognized as one of UNF’s Community Scholars and received the University’s Community Engaged Scholarship Award in 2018. She is excited about the opportunities and hope that PACT can bring to Jacksonville.

Our hope is that the PACT study enrolls more members of the Black/African American Jacksonville community to potentially reduce their risk of dementia.

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