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CHS’s Carson Smith Receives Award from Alzheimer’s Association

Assistant Professor J. Carson Smith
Assistant Professor J. Carson Smith

College of Health Sciences (CHS) Assistant Professor J. Carson Smith, Ph.D., Department of Human Movement Sciences, recently received the “Investigator of the Year” award from the Alzheimer’s Association, Southeastern Wisconsin chapter.

He was lauded for his dedication and support of the organization’s mission, namely to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, providing and enhancing care and support and reducing the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

Specifically, he was singled out for his research on the role of physical activity in dementia care and prevention. Progress, thus far, to determine the genetic and environmental risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease has been slow, coupled with the difficulty in developing effective interventions to prevent or slow the onset of the disease. That’s why the prospect of the protective effects of physical activity in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is so exciting.

Physical activity may be unique in its effects as an intervention, as it targets many of the brain and peripheral metabolic systems potentially involved in the cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s disease. The benefits of exercise in preventing and treating coronary heart disease and type-2 diabetes are well established. Less known, though on the rise, are reports on the positive effects of physical activity for cognitive function.

Dr. Smith’s research, funded by the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Southeastern Wisconsin Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin (AHW), studies the effects of a walking exercise program on brain function in patients diagnosed with mild memory loss and who are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

This study builds on another study, conducted in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic and Marquette University and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), comparing the effectiveness of physical exercise, mental exercise, and their combination to improve brain function in healthy older adults who have a genetic risk factor (the APOE-epsilon 4 allele) for Alzheimer’s disease.

CHS Dean Chukuka S. Enwemeka, Ph.D., FACSM, says, “Congratulations to Dr. Smith! There appears to be great potential in this line of research, and we are pleased at the active role he is taking.”

The award was presented at a festive gathering coinciding with the association’s 26th Annual Meeting at Northwestern Mutual on November 17, 2009.

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