Anavex, UC Anschutz, NIA Cognitive Aging Studies: What They Tell Us

NIA Cognitive Aging Studies

Cognitive aging is a normal part of growing old that involves an ongoing, gradual decline in mental abilities. Understanding cognitive aging has been a major scientific objective for decades, with studies revealing more and more about our aging minds each day.

With cognitive aging and decline impacted by everything from one's genetics and lifestyle choices to susceptibility to chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's disease, and potential brain damage sustained throughout life, keeping up with the latest studies can help us prepare for both natural and unexpected declines in cognitive functioning.

Cognition and Occupation

While it’s long been known that lifestyle choices like diet and exercise impact cognitive aging, two recent studies funded by the National Institute on Aging show that occupation can also affect cognitive outcomes. These studies examined the cognition and occupation of a combined total of 1,891 participating senior citizens. In analyzing data such as interviews, neuropsychological test results, and employment history, it was revealed that occupations with a higher complexity — distinguished by interactions with “data, people, and things” — are associated with better cognitive outcomes.

Findings show that those with occupations considered complex — such as data analysts, social workers, and handypersons — had better memory, a decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia, and a greater brain reserve or cognitive resiliency, leading to slower rates of cognitive decline.

The larger of the two studies — which focused on a sizable and diverse sample and analyzed 1,536 individuals with an average age of 76 years — concluded: “Higher occupational complexity with people was associated with higher baseline cognition across all domains,” indicating that careers with a particular emphasis on social interactions can positively impact cognitive aging.

Investigational Treatments for Neurological Disease-Driven Cognitive Decline

We all wish to experience a healthy rate of cognitive aging, but neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's are known to impact over 8 million Americans, resulting in losses of motor skills and increased rates of cognitive aging.

For their impacts on cognitive aging, neurological diseases have been the subject of a variety of investigational therapies. Anavex is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing therapies to treat the cognitive effects of neurological diseases.

Anavex’s investigational drug Anavex 2-73 (blarcamesine) is an orally available small molecule activator that is currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's disease, and Rett syndrome.

Anavex Life Sciences, the clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing small molecule treatments for neurological diseases, recently outlined the positive results of a data analysis of its Phase 2b/3 clinical trial assessing the use of the investigational drug Anavex 2-73 (blarcamesine) as an oral treatment for the cognitive impacts of early-stage Alzheimer’s.

Results of this 48-week Phase 2b/3 clinical trial show that once-daily use of Anavex 2-73 significantly slows the rate of brain shrinkage and reduces levels of brain plaque-causing amyloid beta in blood, two common biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease.

Natural Causes of Cognitive Aging

Cognitive aging may be a natural symptom of growing old, but that doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t working to stop it. Scientists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have recently discovered what they believe to be the central mechanism behind normal cognitive aging: a misregulation of the CaMKII protein —- a brain protein considered a key mediator of learning and memory.

This study, published in the journal Science Signaling, found that mice with altered CaMKII proteins exhibited cognitive impacts similar to mice experiencing the normal aging process. The process is thought to be triggered by a decrease in S-nitrosylation, a reaction that occurs in both mice and humans and is crucial in modulating CaMKII proteins and regulating memory and learning abilities.

These findings have widespread effects on the pharmaceutical industry, as scientists expect that therapies or medications can be developed to regulate nitrosylation and ensure CaMKII functioning.

"We know this protein can be targeted," Dr. Ulli Bayer, the study's co-senior author and professor of pharmacology at the University of Colorado, told ScienceDaily. "And we think it could be done pharmacologically. That is the next logical step."

Understanding Cognitive Aging

With cognitive aging a (currently) unavoidable aspect of life, a deeper investigation into its root causes and significant disrupters can improve our quality of life and assist in developing treatments for debilitating diseases and declines in functioning. These three studies bring us closer to understanding cognitive aging and unlocking a future free from mental decline and neurological diseases.

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