Study aiming to slow cognitive decline in older adults gets $1.5M


LONDON, ON - Led by Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso and his team at Lawson Health Research Institute, the first large-scale Canadian clinical trial using personalized lifestyle intervention delivered at home to help older adults with mild cognitive impairment is getting underway with support from a Weston Foundation grant of $1.5 million.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. There is growing evidence that enhancing physical activity, stimulating cognitive training and addressing cardiovascular factors could delay or prevent the decline to dementia.

Part of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), the SYNERGIC-2 trial will provide virtual at-home interventions to 550 study participants with MCI, including personalized one-on-one coaching, to help make lifestyle and behavioural changes. This trial builds upon the successful SYNERGIC-1 trial, which used face-to-face interventions, by delivering them remotely using digital technology.

These interventions will target five areas including physical exercise, cognitive training, diet recommendations, sleep interventions and vascular risk factor management, with the goal of enhancing health and maintaining independence for individuals at risk for developing dementia.

Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso
Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso

“There are important risk factors related to exercise, diet, sleep and socialization,” says Dr. Montero-Odasso, Lawson Scientist, Geriatrician at St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Parkwood Institute and a Professor at Western University. “If we can make the brain a little healthier with multiple lifestyle interventions, we may be able to delay or even prevent dementia.”  

The year-long study includes 35 researchers recruiting a diverse population of older adults with MCI across 10 Canadian cities. The research teams are currently looking for participants ages 60-85 with MCI and additional dementia risk factors.

Researchers have created a digital platform to deliver the interventions at home with effective coaching strategies that will help to overcome barriers to lifestyle interventions, like difficulty accessing intervention sites, lack of time to attend gym sessions or living in rural/remote areas.

“There are many Canadians who are at high risk of developing dementia, based on their family history and genetics,” explains Dr. Howard Chertkow, Chair of Cognitive Neurology and Innovation at Baycrest Health Sciences, Scientific Director at CCNA and a co-investigator on the study. “Other risk factors include having high blood pressure and diabetes. We have seen that we can reduce the risk of getting dementia if we can get people to improve their lifestyles in multiple ways.”

Those interested in taking part in the study can contact @email for additional details.

The study is part of a global initiative known as World-Wide FINGERS, an interdisciplinary network working on the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia, and is supported by The Gray Centre for Mobility and Activity at St. Joseph’s.

About Lawson Health Research Institute

Lawson Health Research Institute is one of Canada’s top hospital-based research institutes, tackling the most pressing challenges in health care. As the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, our innovation happens where care is delivered. Lawson research teams are at the leading-edge of science with the goal of improving health and the delivery of care for patients. Working in partnership with Western University, our researchers are encouraged to pursue their curiosity, collaborate often and share their discoveries widely. Research conducted through Lawson makes a difference in the lives of patients, families and communities around the world. To learn more, visit

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