The Pa Lab at the Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute in the Keck School of Medicine of USC is proud to join the SMART-VR Center to build upon our ongoing collaborations using virtual reality as a therapeutic intervention to combat age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Our research is directed by Dr. Judy Pa, a Cognitive Neuroscientist and Assistant Professor in Neurology, Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering, and Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, with 16 years of experience in human brain imaging and formal training in Alzheimer’s disease and clinical trials.
Age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects 36 million people worldwide. Results from several large drug trials have been sobering with no effective treatments for halting, slowing, or preventing cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise has emerged as a meaningful, lifestyle intervention to help remediate cognitive loss or delay onset of dementia. However, to fully leverage exercise benefits in this at-risk population, training the brain to learn and engage in a cognitively-stimulating environment may be key to effective therapies. Controlled cognitively-challenging environments created in a VR setting provide an adaptable and safe environment for improving cognitive dysfunction in older adults at risk for AD. While a large body of literature has found that exercise enhances cognition, very few studies have coupled physical and cognitive activity in a VR environment, simultaneously. By engaging and challenging the mind during exercise over multiple training days, memories for newly acquired information may be stronger and longer-lasting than either cognitive or physical activity alone. Therefore, in our work we build upon principles from neuroscience to understand how simultaneous brain and body interventions can regenerate the human brain.
To participate in our research studies, or to join our team of neuroscientists, engineers, and computer scientists, please contact us at ThePaLab.com.
To see a bit more about our research, here is a still of our nature environment. We invite you to come immerse yourself in our world.