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BU Launches Pop Health Study to Learn Factors that Increase Risk of Dementia



Earlier this month, the Boston University School of Public Health and Savonix launched a population health study to look at digitally collected data on the lifestyle factors that increase dementia risk.

By collecting cognitive data, health history and lifestyle data from 400,000 individuals, researchers hope to accelerate early intervention efforts and drug development in Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease makes up 60 to 80% of dementia cases.

“Our aim is to generate data on an unprecedented scale that will assist researchers, universities, biotech and pharma companies in the fight to better understand individual differences that hold the key to treatment, prevention and ultimately the elusive cure for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Mylea Charvat, Ph.D., CEO and founder of Savonix, a company that produces digital tests for cognitive health.

Participants in the Alzheimer’s Disease Discovery study must be at least 22 years old, live in the U.S. and have access to an internet-connected mobile device. Each participant will complete a health history form with information on risk factors for the development of dementia, such as smoking, alcohol intake, diet and exercise combined with measures of their daily behavior from their digital devices. Biomarkers include sleep, heart rate variability, exercise and blood glucose levels, among other bio and psycho-social markers.

Along with that, participants will take a 15-minute Savonix cognitive assessment which is mapped to the criteria for the classification of minor and major cognitive impairment. Participants will complete the history and cognitive tests twice over a two-year time period.

The information collected will form an ongoing registry of phenomic data which could lead to a better knowledge and understanding of the long-term risk of dementia.

“By collaborating with Savonix on this landmark study in dementia, we are bringing together state-of-the-science thinking about how we can capture patient data with an innovative digital cognitive assessment platform that can help advance our understanding of dementia across individuals, communities and large populations,” said Sandro Galea, M.D., MPH, dean and Robert A. Knox professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.

The study has the potential to become a benchmark for future dementia population health studies and change the health of Americans, their communities and global populations, Galea concluded.

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