Brain structures that regulate and control the autonomic nervous system (i.e., locus coeruleus) have been identified as the earliest affected regions of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, passive measurement of autonomic functions, including day-to-day variability of physical activity, sleep, and heart rate may offer a highly sensitive measure of early cognitive difficulties with numerous advantages (e.g., relatively inexpensive, non-invasive, portable, discrete, not affected by education, culture, or test anxiety, etc.). The aim of this study is to validate continuous measures of autonomic function against standard clinical tests of cognitive abilities, performance-based and questionnaire measures of everyday function, brain imaging measures of cerebrovascular integrity (white matter hyperintensities), and brain health (volume of locus coeruleus).
25 older adults (65+) who are cognitively healthy or have mild cognitive impairment will be recruited from a parent study that includes standard cognitive testing, comprehensive assessment of everyday function, and structural neuroimaging. Participants will be asked to wear the Garmin vivosmart 4 watch for four weeks to measure variation in day-to-day heart rate, steps, sleep, and accelerometer derived physical activity. Partial correlations/regressions adjusting for age, sex, and level of intellectual function will investigate the relation between autonomic measures and clinical variables (cognition, everyday function, neuroimaging). Activity measure will be examined in exploratory analyses. Strong relations would provide preliminary support for using smart watches to help identify risk for dementia in healthy older adults.
Sophia Holmqvist (she/her) is a first year PhD student studying Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience at Temple University working with Dr. Tania Giovannetti. She is interested in examining relations among neuroimaging/biomarkers, more culturally sensitive measures of cognition and function, and data derived from novel technologies (i.e., wearables) to inform cognitive decline risk and detection in older adults. In her free time, Sophia loves hiking, anything involving the outdoors, painting, and exploring the great food in Philly!