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ACT Study

Aerobic Exercise

A moderate-vigorous intensity cycling schedule is prescribed based on individual's respective fitness level. The duration of cycling gradually increases over time and includes a cardiac warm-up and cool-down before and after each cycling session. 

Cognitive Training

Computer-based cognitive games are used to train processing speed and attention. An adaptive algorithm adjusts the difficulty of each task, so that individuals perform near their optimal capacity to maximize the training effect on the brain. 

Research Background

Preventing AD is arguably the most promising approach to address the AD epidemic. Nearly all AD drug trials have failed, and currently no drugs can prevent AD. Therefore, developing non-pharmacological interventions to prevent AD onset, especially in high-risk populations (e.g., individuals with MCI) is critically important.


Aerobic exercise and cognitive training (ACT) are two promising nonpharmacological interventions to prevent or delay AD onset. Aerobic exercise appears to offer modest to moderate gains across cognitive domains in older adults with MCI by increasing aerobic fitness, which induces broad structural and functional brain changes. Cognitive training, especially processing speed-based training, generates moderate to large but relatively selective cognitive gains that affect neural function in older adults with MCI.


We and our colleagues at University of Minnesota have previously shown that six months of cycling helps maintain global cognition in AD, and greater aerobic fitness is associated with a lower decline in global cognition, as well as stronger functional connectivity in brain regions vulnerable to AD pathology. Additionally, approximately 20 hours of cognitive training improves executive function and maintains functional connectivity in AD-vulnerable brain regions in individuals with MCI. Based on these prior findings, we are researching whether ACT can yield synergistic improvements in cognition, by additively strengthening different but complementary brain functions, in older adults with MCI.

Study Aims

  • Determine the impact and potential additive effects of ACT on cognition. 

  • Examine the underlying mechanisms of ACT over 6 months.

  • Evaluate the long-term effects of ACT on cognition, as well as clinical and pathological AD conversion to inform future clinical studies.

Study Participation 

The ACT study is recruiting adults ages 65 years or older. ACT is an 18-month long study and involves

  • 5 cognitive assessments that test memory and other cognitive functions

  • 4 fMRI brain scans

  • 6-month intervention

Participants will be paid up to $170 for completion of all study measures.  

Supplemental Studies

We have two supplemental studies that support the main ACT Study.

PET Study: Evaluation of the Effects of ACT on Amyloid Burden in Amnestic MCI

A​myloid-beta is a hallmark brain biomarker for AD. The rate of amyloid-beta build-up has been linked to cognitive decline, but the effects of ACT on amyloid-beta, specifically in older adults with MCI, remain unclear. PET scans are completed to measure brain amyloid burden and investigate the relationship between ACT and amyloid burden.

Blood Study: Blood Biomarkers as Surrogate Endpoints of Treatment Responses to ACT in Amnestic MCI​

We are examining whether blood biomarkers can help track responses to different treatment regimens used to try to prevent or slow cognitive decline.

Supplemental Study Participation 

If you are enrolled in the main ACT study, you may also participate in one or both of the supplemental studies. Participation in the ACT study and the supplemental studies occurs at the same time. 

The PET study involves a PET scan before and after the 6-month intervention in the parent ACT study.

The Blood study involves providing a blood sample at five time points during the parent ACT study.

The supplemental studies are optional and do not affect your eligibility for the main ACT study.

COVID Procedures: We follow all NY state and University of Rochester Medical Center guidelines to ensure your and our staff's safety. A mask is required at all times when inside our facilities. We will conduct screening questionnaires and perform temperature checks upon your arrival and escort to our lab. All staff are screened daily and wear personal protective equipment (i.e., gloves, mask, face shield) during study visits. The number of staff and visitors to our lab is limited to those essential for in-person activities, and all interview rooms and equipment are disinfected regularly, as well as before and after each participant's appointment.  

Interested in

participating in a study

or want more information

about our research?

Contact us!

Contact the CogT Lab

University of Rochester

Stanford University

(585) 276-5999

(650) 725-0581

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