Age+ Prize Winners

July 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Cedric Annweiler
Western University

Vitamin D and caudal primary motor cortex: a magnetic resonance spectroscopy study

Fall risk in seniors is an important concern to be addressed. Vitamin D supplementation has demonstrated to prevent falls in older adults, but the mechanism remains uncertain. Cedric’s research aimed to elucidate whether the blood level of vitamin D was linked to brain health, specifically within areas essential to lower-limb motor function.

Based on the ‘Gait & Brain’ cohort, Cedric and his research team used a metabolic imaging technique called proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure neuronal function in the caudal primary motor cortex, ie the final integrator of cerebral motor program. A blood test was performed at the same time to determine the serum level of vitamin D.

Results provide evidence for the first time that neuronal function in the brain is sensitive to vitamin D status in older adults. These novel findings offer a powerful mechanism to better understand mobility decline in older adults with hypovitaminosis D, and potentially to improve higher-level gait control, prevent falls and maintain function late in life.

The topic of this study, in health and physiology, was in direct line with Cedric’s career plan of pursuing in parallel medical practice and clinical research, with the objective of improving human health. Moreover, it gave him the opportunity to develop scientific collaborations with well-established scientists and academic researchers.

After completing his postdoctoral fellowship, Cedric was appointed Associate Professor, Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Biology of Aging, Faculty of Medicine, Angers, France, and Chief, Division of Acute Geriatrics, Angers University Hospital. He is also Adjunct Research Professor at Robarts Research Institute, the University of Western Ontario, London, ON.

July 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Alexandru Hanganu
Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal

Mild cognitive impairment is linked with faster rate of cortical thinning in patients with Parkinson’s disease longitudinally

Parkinson's disease affects nearly 10% of people older than 80 years and up to 40% of these patients have cognitive deficits. The results of our study can be used to find the early brain changes associated with cognitive impairment and to prevent its development.

We analyzed the MRI of two groups patients with Parkinson's disease – those with mild cognitive impairment and those with preserved cognition at two time points. We analyzed the changes of cortical thickness and the volumes of subcortical structures over time, and also compared these data with group of healthy controls.

This study is the first to show which regions in the brain are associated with cognitive impairment in patients with Parkinson's disease. These regions will eventually allow the usage of necessary management strategies in order to prevent cognitive impairment before the appearance of any clinical manifestations.

So far my career has concentrated on the Movement Disorders branch - I am a neurologist and I worked mainly with Parkinson's disease during the PhD and post-doctoral studies. Future post-doctoral research addresses the non-motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson's disease and especially cognition and depression.

Our research continues to analyze the inter-relations between the non-motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease and their influence on the brain. Future studies are directed towards the impact of cognition, depression and anxiety on the brain and the methods to preserve a good quality of life in patients with Parkinson's disease.

July 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Chun-Liang Hsu
University of British Columbia

Disruptions in Brain Networks of Older Fallers Are Associated with Subsequent Cognitive Decline: A 12-Month Prospective Exploratory Study

Falls and cognitive impairment are both geriatric ‘giants’ that greatly reduce the quality of life of older Canadians. Both conditions are often interrelated, yet the underlying neural mechanisms are not well understood. Understanding underlying neural mechanisms of impaired mobility contributes to the design of sensitive screening tools and treatment strategies.

Community-dwelling older adults with/without significant falls history were recruited to the study and underwent functional MRI measurement as well as clinical assessments. We compared functional connectivity of numerous brain networks between older fallers/non-fallers and found significant differences in network connections were associated with subsequent mobility/cognitive decline over a 12-month observation period.

I found that the neural signature demonstrated by older fallers was associated with greater decline in both cognitive function and mobility over a 12-month observation period. Thus, my findings suggest that a recent history of multiple falls may be a biomarker of sub-clinical changes in brain function and increased risk for subsequent decline among community-dwelling older adults without dementia. Notably, a potential clinical implication of my study results is that health care professionals should consider taking a history of falls when assessing for dementia risk. Early identification of those at risk for dementia or cognitive decline would lead to timely investigation and implementation of prevention strategies, thereby facilitating the maintenance of functional autonomy.

My research interests reside in neuroimaging and cognitive/mobility impairments in older adults. Thus, this project serves as a foundation upon which I can build on to extend current understanding of the neural basis underlying the relationship between cognitive/mobility decline in seniors as well as its relevance to cognitive aging and dementia risk.

I’m currently a third year Ph. D. student in the Rehabilitation Sciences program at UBC. After my training, I intend to pursue a post-doctoral position and continue to work towards improving the health of Canadians by research either in academia or in a research institute.

July 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Anam Islam
Western University

Facilitating frailty identification: comparison of two methods among community-dwelling older adults

Frailty is a state which leaves older adults vulnerable to disability, institutionalization, falls, fractures and death. Although several frailty models exist, they are not applicable in clinical settings to screen frail seniors. This study aimed to validate the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS), built for easy application in primary care clinics.

This research was a secondary analysis on a database of 104 community-dwelling seniors (age ≥75) measured for frailty using the widely accepted Frailty Phenotype (FP). Two clinicians, blinded to FP scores, then independently applied the CFS by reviewing baseline measures. Discrepancies in CFS scores between clinicians were resolved by consensus.

The CFS was shown to be a reliable and valid frailty measure, with the advantage of being easy to apply in the clinic over other frailty models. The identification of clinically sensible frailty tools may yield more precise detection of frail seniors and allow for earlier interventions to ameliorate risk.

This study was a part of my Masters thesis project and allowed me to build my knowledge of clinical research methodology and statistics. This project also afforded an opportunity to work alongside leading researchers and clinicians in the field who are now mentoring my transition from student to research professional.

I have defended my Masters thesis and am working as a Research Coordinator at the Gait and Brain Lab. My research focuses on the clinical identification and assessment of frailty using novel gait markers. I am looking forward to growing my career as a Clinical Research Professional focusing in frailty.

July 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Scott Nugent
Université de Sherbrooke

Brain glucose and acetoacetate metabolism: a comparison of young and older adults

It was important to do this research in order to better understand aging-related changes in brain energy use. A better understanding may help us develop specific interventions to help prevent cognitive deficits during aging.

We compared the use of brain energy between groups of adults aged 18-35 years and above 65 years of age. Our research indicated aging was associated with decreased energy uptake of the main source of energy used by the brain (sugar-glucose) but not in the principal back-up fuel (ketones).

These results suggest that the main back-up fuel by the brain, ketones, may be used as a therapeutic strategy to help compensate for deficits in brain glucose availability during aging.

This project has provided me with a lot of experience that is relevant to my career goal of becoming an independent researcher in the neuroscience domain.

I am currently pursuing postdoctoral studies at McGill University under the supervision of Dr Rick Hoge.

July 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Linda Truong
Ryerson University

Friend or foe? Decoding the facilitative and disruptive effects of emotion on working memory in younger and older adults

We usually hear about memory declines in older adults. However, it is also important to study the abilities that do not decline and may even improve, such as the processing of emotional content. My research showed that preserved emotional processing can sometimes minimize the memory declines faced by older adults.

Younger and older adults were asked to remember certain target words and ignore other distracter words. The words were either positive (“joy”), negative (“cancer”), or neutral (“desk”). After a short period of time had passed, they were asked whether a presented word was a target, distracter, or new word.

Older adults performed this memory task as successfully as younger adults when the target was an emotional (positive or negative) word! However, older adults had more difficulties remembering negative distracter words. These results highlight situations in which emotional content can be helpful to memory and when it is not.

My career goal is to improve memory and attentional abilities in older adults. This project showed me how memory is better when older adults are asked to remember emotional information. I aim to apply these findings to help strengthen older adults’ memory in real-life settings where we encounter emotional information.

I am a doctoral candidate, finishing the last year of my PhD degree in psychology. After graduation, I aim to work as a postdoctoral fellow, focusing on improving the abilities of older adults and also promoting active and successful aging by providing opportunities for older adults to learn about research.

January 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Udunna Anazodo
Western University

An investigation of changes in regional gray matter volume in cardiovascular disease patients, pre and post cardiovascular rehabilitation.

Cardiovascular disease is the most prevalent chronic disease among older adults. Risk factors include hypertension, diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol. These risk factors are associated with decrease in brain structure and function. However, very little is known about the direct effect of cardiovascular disease on the health of an aging brain.

To investigate cardiac disease effects on brain structure, brain (gray matter) volumes were compared between groups of cardiovascular disease patients and healthy controls matched in age. In addition, brain volumes were compared in cardiac patients before and after 6 months of exercise training, to determine if exercise– an established cardiac rehabilitation intervention–would also have neuro-rehabilitation effects.

Compared to controls, the cardiac patient group had decreased brain volume in areas of the brain responsible for cognitive function and memory such as the prefrontal, parietal and temporal cortices. In some of the affected brain regions, an increase in brain volume was observed after 6 months of exercise training.

This study employed novel neuroimaging techniques to explore subtle preclinical implications of cardiovascular disease on an aging human brain. This study gave Udunna the opportunity to utilize her clinical skills while learning first-hand research methodological skills that will equip her to become a successful neuroimaging scientist.

Udunna is in the last year of her doctoral program, and plans to defend her thesis in the fall of 2014. She is currently seeking a postdoctoral fellowship where she will continue to study healthy brain aging using novel in vivo imaging techniques.

January 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: AmanPreet Badhwar
McGill University

Impaired structural correlates of memory in Alzheimer's disease mice.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and related dementias are the most common causes of disability in people over 65, affecting over 500,000 Canadians. One factor in the progressive cognitive deterioration in AD could be a decline in how well the brain adapts its structure to changing demands, a process known as neuroanatomical plasticity.

AmanPreet and her research team compared mice with an AD-like disease with normal mice on a set of memory and learning tasks, and measured changes in the size of brain structures using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). She also tested the effects of a proposed drug for AD, pioglitazone, on cerebrovascular function, memory, and neuroanatomical plasticity.

The hippocampus, a brain structure important for memory, enlarged in normal mice after training. The AD mice, however, did not remember as well as the normal mice and showed smaller increases in hippocampal volume. Pioglitazone greatly improved cerebrovascular function, mildly improved memory, but did not improve neuroanatomical plasticity. Together, these findings suggest that reduced neuroanatomical plasticity and impaired function of the blood vessels in the brain both contribute to cognitive decline in AD.

Currently, AmanPreet is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. Her project combines cutting-edge quantitative MRI methods, positron emission tomography and genetics to characterize the extent and nature of metabolic and vascular abnormalities in AD patients. Her goal is to become a professor and conduct translational research bridging basic and applied science to improve the lives of patients with dementia.

January 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Sijia Cao
University of British Columbia

Relationship between systemic cytokines and complement factor H Y402H polymorphism in patients with dry age-related macular degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of blindness and affects approximately 1 million elderly Canadians. The results of this study suggest that a simple blood test can help to identify those AMD patients with a greater risk of faster progression so that close follow-up strategies and timely preventive measures can be offered.

Patient work was combined with lab work to approach this research issue. Sijia explored specific proteins in blood of AMD patients that, in combination with genotyping, will help to identify those AMD patients with a higher risk for vision loss.

The data suggests that a group of inflammatory-related proteins are strong candidate markers that can serve to identify those elders with early stage AMD who are likely to have a higher risk for progression. These findings suggest that AMD patients may be able to identify their individual risk and thus they may seek earlier medical attention tailored to their individual needs.

This research project is part of Sijia’s PhD thesis work at the University of British Columbia. This experience will allow her to build her career plans to be clinician scientist and an eye researcher with specialty in translational science.

Sijia is pursuing a PhD at the University of British Columbia and her research today focuses on the basic mechanisms of the pathogenesis of AMD. The training will prepare her for her future career goals to undertake cutting-edge research that will make available new treatment options for eye diseases.

January 2014 - Age Plus Prize Winner: Rosalie Wang
Toronto Rehab and University of Toronto

Power mobility with collision avoidance for older adults: User, caregiver, and prescriber perspectives.

For older adults, mobility loss resulting from complex chronic health conditions is an important concern to be addressed. Mobility is a vital factor in health and quality of life. Rosalie’s research involves older adults and their care providers to develop technological innovations for power wheelchairs to enable mobility and participation.

Using in-depth interviews, Rosalie examined the perceptions and needs of older adult power mobility users, caregivers of users, and power mobility prescribers (therapists) with respect to collision avoidance technology. The analysis of themes across the three groups was not previously conducted for this type of innovation.

Findings support collision avoidance technology for older adult users. The technology may benefit current users and those with visual impairments (not only those with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments who do not have access to power mobility). Results are guiding development of usable and acceptable technology and highlight the need and value of involving often marginalized older adults in design.

This project was part of CanWheel, a CIHR cross-Canada Aging and Mobility Team. Rosalie feels privileged to work alongside and learn from extraordinary mentors in social sciences, rehabilitation and engineering. Working with such a supportive group has expanded her research skills and enhanced her capability to work in large multi-site collaborations.

Rosalie recently accepted an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto. She is extremely excited to be involved in training the next generation of Occupational Therapists and to continue her research to enable health and well-being of older adults through innovative interventions.

October 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Christian-Alexandre Castellano
Université de Sherbrooke

Thyroid function and cognition in the euthyroid elderly: A case-control study embedded in Quebec longitudinal study - NuAge.

Improving and extending the quality of life among older adults is a major concern for our society. Data indicates that thyroid hormone deficiencies (hypothyroid) result in intellectual problems. However, suboptimal normal thyroid function does not seem to increase the risk of cognitive decline in aging.

This research is based on a second analysis of the archival data and plasma samples obtained from a previous study. Thirty-one healthy older adults were matched to thirty-one persons who showed memory decline over 3-years and a retrospective comparison of thyroid function blood tests and relative risk of intellectual problems were performed.

Since there is no apparent association between the normal functional status of the thyroid and the risk of cognitive decline in aging, the administration of thyroid hormones as a preventive strategy to help offset aging-related memory problems is not recommended.

The subject of this study, in health and physiology, is in direct line with Christian-Alexandre’s career plan of pursuing research in human diseases, with the objective of improving human health. Moreover, it gives him the opportunity to develop a scientific collaboration with well-established scientists and academic researchers.

Christian-Alexandre has just finished his postdoctoral scholarship and has started to work as a research associate at the Université de Sherbrooke in Stephen Cunnane’s laboratory. In the near future, he hopes to become a professor at a major university or research institute.

October 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Caroline Ménard
McGill University

Knockdown of prodynorphin gene prevents cognitive decline, reduces anxiety, and rescues loss of group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptor function in aging.

Despite a general lengthening of lifespan in human populations, quality of life varies a lot between the elderly. Some individuals are active and part of a strong social network while others suffer from loneliness and disabling conditions. A better understanding of the processes leading to individual differences might help identify new pharmacological targets and develop treatments to favor successful aging in vulnerable populations.

A recent study associated prodynorphin (Pdyn) gene expression to memory function in elderly humans. Dynorphins, a class of molecules that are encoded by this gene, have been related to emotional control and stress response. A transgenic mouse model was used in which Pdyn expression had been knocked down to study its role on cognition and stress-related behaviors during aging. The mice were tested in multiple mazes and tasks, and then compared what was different in the brain of the transgenic mice to support intact memory despite aging.

Caroline and her research team identified an important gene, called prodynorphin (Pdyn), and proposed novel mechanisms and targets for drug discovery to prevent age-associated cognitive and behavioral deficits occurring in normal and pathological aging. In fact, elevated Pdyn expression could be involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorders, addiction and depression.

When Caroline joined Dr. Rémi Quirion’s team, she wanted to learn to conduct behavioral experiments on rodents and develop an expertise in aging studies. She had the opportunity to work on various animal models of aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Caroline loved to train mice and rats in mazes and see them learn and become better every day (like human!). This project was also an opportunity to meet and work with amazing collaborators who are experts in their field.

Caroline is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal Research Center where she investigates the impact of obesity on memory and stress response during aging. Her plan is to move to the United States to complete her training and then apply for faculty positions in few years.

October 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Md Moniruzzaman (Monir)
McMaster University

Mode use and trip length of seniors in Montreal

Walking is an inexpensive travel mode and can help achieve physical activity guidelines without imposing additional time demands, if incorporated in daily life. It was therefore necessary to investigate the use of various modes of transportation and associated trip length of seniors with a focus on walking.

In general, travel behavior, i.e. walking behavior as particular in Monir’s paper, is analyzed by a travel diary database. Montreal Household Travel Survey is such a travel diary database which was used as a secondary database to develop the behavioral models in the paper.

Population and employment density, and neighborhood design factors (built density, street density) increase the likelihood of walking. It was also found that seniors of all ages are more likely to walk and to undertake longer trips when their place of residence is in the central parts of Montreal Island.

This study was conducted to investigate the walking behavior of seniors. While Monir was undertaking the research, he realized that an active living center is very important for a healthy and successful aging. The study findings would help him in leading an active living center by adding new perspectives in it.

Monir is currently in his last year of his PhD program at McMaster University. After finishing his doctorate program, his plan is to carry out new researches, either as an academia or being a part of research institute, in the field of elderly mobility and develop a future plan that would contribute towards healthy aging.

October 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Lauren Ashley Watson
University of Western Ontario

Atrx deficiency induces telemere dysfuction, endocrine defects and reduced life span

The knowledge of molecular events that contribute to the aging process is poorly understood. Thus, it was particularly important to perform this research to gain a better understanding of these molecular events, in hopes that one day therapies can be generated to treat the debilitating consequences of aging.

Based on literature review and previous results, Lauren generated a hypothesis to test how loss of a protein required for correct brain development could result in aging-like symptoms. She designed experiments to test the hypothesis, was critical of the data, and ensured that multiple lines of evidence existed before generating conclusions.

Lauren’s research identified that correct levels of hormones during development depends on the DNA integrity of cells in the pituitary. This is important since correct hormone levels are required to prevent aging-like symptoms, and provides an opportunity to target specific aging symptoms through hormone therapy.

This research project was an excellent opportunity to gain skills in experimental design, critical thinking, and numerous experimental techniques. As a future scientist and leader in the cutting edge field of epigenetics, Lauren wants to bridge the gap between the scientific and lay communities by making research problems understandable to demonstrate the importance of basic science.

Lauren is currently in her 5th year of her PhD program, and hopes to use this unique training experience to build a career that bridges molecular genetics, neurobiology, and epigenetics. Her ultimate goal is to become the director of a molecular neurogenetics laboratory, where she will conduct a research program aimed at understanding the molecular etiology of neurological disease.

May 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Alexander Crizzle
McMaster University

Self-regulatory practices of drivers with Parkinson's disease: accuracy of patient reports

For many seniors, being able to drive is very important in maintaining an independent lifestyle. However, the ability to drive safely can be impacted by age-related medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease (PD). As the symptoms of PD can impair driving, the purpose of this study was to examine whether people with Parkinson’s disease reduced or avoided certain driving situations (ie. driving at night or in the rain) compared to healthy older drivers.

The participants completed a cognitive test and were asked questions about their usual driving behaviours. In-vehicle electronic devices were then installed in participants’ vehicles to assess actual driving behaviours (one with GPS) over two weeks, followed by an interview. This study showed that self-reported driving behaviours are not accurate when compared to more objective measures (in-vehicle devices). Drivers with PD may have more difficulty with memory and also have less awareness of their driving behaviours. These findings show that patient reports of driving behaviour should not be taken at face value by clinicians or researchers.

Most of Alexander’s research to date has examined issues related to road safety in older adults. This study was an opportunity to use technology to assess driving behaviours in older drivers. Now, he is able to use GPS tracking in driving and other mobility related research projects.

Alexander is currently a Michael G. DeGroote Post-Doctoral Fellow at McMaster University in the School of Rehabilitation Science. His next steps are to secure a faculty position to continue with his research interests in the coming year.

May 2013 – Age Plus Prize winner: Janet Pritchard
University of McMaster

Bone mineralization is elevated and less heterogeneous in adults with type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis compared to controls with osteoarthritis alone.

Adults with type 2 diabetes are almost two times more likely to break a bone compared to adults without diabetes. This is troubling, as osteoporotic fractures decrease quality of life and increase the risk of death. The aim of this research was to understand how diabetes affects bone health.

For this study, sections of bone were harvested from patients having total hip replacement surgery. The patients either had a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or did not have a diagnosis of diabetes. A high magnification microscope was used to measure the amount of calcium in the samples.

This research suggests a reason for bone fragility in older adults with type 2 diabetes. The findings may be used to support more research on osteoporosis treatments in a group of people with type 2 diabetes. If fractures are prevented, independence and quality of life could be maintained.

This research molded Janet into a better medical scientist. She was able to master a basic science technique and apply it to a serious clinical problem. Janet aspires to be an independent researcher, where she can use different techniques to understand the impact of chronic disease on the human body.

Janet is a post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University (Department of Medicine). She is fortunate to work with various doctors, including geriatricians and orthopaedic surgeons, on projects aiming to reduce fractures and better understand the aging process. Janet is seeking different future opportunities to continue research in the field of aging.

May 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Émilie Raymond
McGill University

On the track of evaluated programmes targeting the social participation of seniors: a typology proposal.

Social participation is an important goal for ageing policy. Many social programs are currently trying to improve seniors’ social participation. However, there is a lack of information about relevant, inclusive and efficient practices in this field. Our review of 32 social programs provides a typology of five possible approaches to support seniors’ participation.

We undertook a literature review using more than 20 databases in the fields of health and social sciences. We selected only evaluated social programs because we were interested in collecting data about both the nature and the results of the programs. Our review spanned from 1970 to 2011. 32 programs were analyzed.

Our research results offer practical guidance for practitioners, researchers and policy-makers. For practitioners, they provide insights about conditions favorable to seniors’ social participation and give inspiring examples of effective programs. For researchers, our results are the first attempt to gather, compare and synthesize the available data about a crucial topic in gerontology. For policy-makers, our paper gives cues about the best practices to encourage older people’s participation, this within a user-friendly framework.

This research project allowed Émilie to explore an innovative field and to gain recognition as a new researcher in gerontology. The results were used in many settings, for example to create a training workshop for social practitioners. It was a significant way to bridge gerontology and social work, Émilie’s field of study. The paper also helped her to strengthen her research curriculum.

Émilie is now an assistant professor at Université Laval.

January 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Mohammad Auais
Western University

Extended Exercise Program Post Hip Fracture Improves Patients' Physical Functioning: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Findings from a previous longitudinal study that was conducted by Mohammad Auais have suggested that functional status and health-related quality of life (HRQL) of patients with hip fractures deteriorate following the cessation of rehabilitation services— after being discharged to the community. This study provides a potential solution to help patients with hip fractures return to pre-fracture functional level. In this study, it was found that engaging in exercise for elderly hip fracture survivors who have gone back to the community cannot only prevent functional decline but also improve functional abilities and their quality of life. This would eventually help elderly patients with hip fractures reintegrate to normal living in the community.

The aim of the study was to review all related research published worldwide and estimate how well an extended exercise rehabilitation program would improve physical functioning (e.g. walking, balance) for patients with hip fractures. This type of program is offered in the community and for a longer duration than the regular rehabilitation programs patients usually receive after hip fractures. After reviewing all the literature, only high quality randomized controlled trials were included in this review. The results from all the eligible studies were combined statistically (i.e. meta-analysis) to answer the research question.

This review is the first to show that a significant functional improvement can be gained later than is usually believed with elderly hip fracture patients. This improvement suggests that there is really no 'plateau' of recovery as used to be believed, which may stem from insufficient rehabilitation. If further studies corroborate these findings, this could lead to a change in the existing practices and guidelines available for patients after hip fracture.

Mohammad strongly believes that areas of future research should emphasize cost-effectiveness (i.e. the value) of extended programs. He believes that even modest gains in mobility and balance may translate to substantial cost savings if a second hip fracture is prevented or even admission to long-term care is delayed. He is looking forward to seeing the indicated exercise program integrated into a comprehensive multidisciplinary healthcare program that spans the continuum of recovery for hip fracture patients. Additionally, Mohammad hopes to contribute, through his future research, not only to finding innovative evidence-based interventions that could be offered by the healthcare system to improve quality of life of elderly patients but also to their implementation.

Mohammad Auais is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Ivey International Centre for Health Innovation, Western University. He is pursuing a career in academia. His ultimate aim is to bridge the gap between actual practices and optimal care, eventually leading to better health services and patient outcome.

January 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Josie-Anne Bertrand
Université du Québec à Montréal

Color discrimination deficits in Parkinson's disease are related to cognitive impairment and white-matter alterations

Dementia is a major issue in Parkinson's disease since it affects 80% of patients. It is important to understand the nature of deficits to eventually prevent dementia from developing. This research focuses on a symptom known to be a risk factor for dementia and relates it to underlying brain anomalies.

Patients came to the research laboratory and underwent a neurological and neuropsychological evaluation to assess brain function, namely their ability to differentiate color. After, they went into a scanner where pictures of their brain were taken. The research team then compared the integrity of their brain structures to their color differentiation abilities.

For the first time, this study showed that the color differentiation problems in Parkinson's disease were related to brain anomalies rather than to eye problems. This suggests that visual anomalies are related to neurodegeneration and that patients might be at higher risk for dementia.

Josie-Anne hopes to pursue a career in Parkinson's disease research to help patients have a better quality of life. Her goal is even to try to prevent such a disease from developing. This project is thus specifically in line with her research interests and surfaces new research questions.

Josie-Anne Bertrand is currently doing a postdoctoral fellowship where she learns how to manage many different research projects and to supervise students. The next step is to get a professor position at a university and to be able to receive grants that will support her research projects on Parkinson's disease.

January 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Cyril Bories
Université Laval

Differential Balance of Prefrontal Synaptic Activity in Successful versus Unsuccessful Cognitive Aging

Alterations of cognitive functions affect the life of many elderly people. These problems are particularly disabling and require special care resulting into enormous cost for modern societies. Therefore it is of great interest to seek the neurobiological substrates of these declines to improve their treatment and the care of patients.

To investigate the functional wiring and dynamics of aged neural circuits the research team employed a combination of state-of-the-art electrophysiological, morphological and behavioral assessments in rodents. This study included in vitro patch-clamp recordings, exploratory and memory-based behavioral paradigms and in-depth single-cell morphometric analysis.

By deciphering the neurobiological substrates of age-dependent cognitive declines, the results obtained will contribute to the treatment of these declines through the refinement of pharmacological intervention. Consistent with the team's observations, several studies already reported that pharmacological interventions are prompt to improve cognitive performance in rodents.

This research project allowed Mr. Bories to diversify his working experience and fundamental knowledge in Neuroscience. Beyond his experience in the lab, he also improved his skills on data and statistical analyses. It also facilitated and enhanced opportunities for collaborations with other international groups.

Interacting with physicians, peers and broad audiences to stimulate scientific exchanges and collaborative projects is one of the most interesting parts of the work researchers do. To facilitate these interactions, besides his research on brain disorders, Cyril Bories will start a specialized M.B.A to acquire new skills for pharmaceutical and health systems management.

January 2013 – Age Plus Prize Winner: Andrée-Ann Cyr
University of Toronto

Updating misconceptions: Effects of age and confidence

Most Canadians will be dementia free as they age and will look to keep their learning abilities sharp as they pursue educational or workplace opportunities. This study suggests that our ability to correct misconceptions surrounding general knowledge remains relatively intact, despite age-related declines in memory: good news for lifelong learners!

Andrée-Ann wanted to mimic everyday learning so she asked participants to answer trivia-type questions in either a free recall or multiple-choice format, similar to school tests, and she rated their confidence in their answers. Following feedback, they were retested and the research team looked at whether the ability to correct misconceptions depended on initial confidence.

The findings highlight the fact older and younger adults recover from making mistakes- which are somewhat inevitable during learning- in a very similar fashion. However, this research highlighted the need to overcome older adults' more frequent tip-of-the-tongue experiences – seniors know a lot of facts, but can't always retrieve them without support.

Andrée-Ann's long-term research goal is to bridge the gap between more basic research findings in cognitive aging and educational/ clinical practice. This study illustrates her interests as it was informed by cognitive research on error correction, and this knowledge was then applied to examine age differences in correcting everyday misconceptions.

Andrée-Ann Cyr is currently a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Nicole Anderson. She intends on defending in the Fall of 2013 and looks forward to further pursuing her research interests in the framework of a postdoctoral fellowship.

January 2013 - Age+ Prize Winner: Nicolas Martin
Université de Montréal

Topography of age-related changes in sleep spindles

It is known that sleep changes considerably as we get older. These changes may be related to the aging of the brain, altering in turn the neural dynamics underlying sleep. This research addressed how the sleep spindle, a key neural phenomena reflecting sleep and memory functions, changes during normal aging throughout the brain.

114 healthy participants aged between 20 and 73 years old came to the research laboratory for a standard night sleep. With electrodes placed on the surface of their head, the research team measured the neural activity of the brain and compared the quantity and quality of sleep spindles in younger, middle-aged and older participants.

With this research, the team was able to identify which aspects of the sleep spindle change with age and where these changes are the most prominent in the brain. This knowledge will guide the team's efforts to understand and prevent sleep and memory problems in the older population.

Throughout this project, Mr. Martin acquired very precious knowledge on how the brain works and how it is affected by age. As a future psychologist and sleep expert, this experience will help him develop better ways to optimize sleep quality for Canadians of all ages.

After completing his clinical internship and research thesis, Nicolas's goal is to continue his work in the field of psychology and sleep, combining the individual scope of clinical practice to the wider aims of scientific research.

Date modified: