Edson College inaugural awards support dementia research projects

Two Arizona State University researchers were recently awarded $25,000 each to pilot projects focused on dementia research.

The funding was given out as part of the inaugural Edson Discovery Pilot Awards for Dementia Caregiving from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The recipients are Edson College Professor Linda Larkey and College of Health Solutions Assistant Professor Edward Ofori.

Larkey’s project will test the feasibility of helping family members caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease with a daily practice that uses a device to help focus and calm the nervous system and shift to positive, caring emotions. They’ll do this practice while sitting with their family member to encourage emotionally positive time together. 

Other caregivers will instead listen to music for 10 minutes daily to compare to the device-driven time for effects on feelings of caregiver burden, stress and resilience.

“Our team of investigators and I are honored and excited to be a part of this initiative in the college’s rapidly expanding focus on aging and cognitive function and the caregivers who make a difference in the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Central to this work is the vision of Dr. Yu who is leading this program to support a hub of researchers to build better solutions through collaboration,” Larkey said.

Ofori’s project will examine whether improving visuomotor skills through training can help ease symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It will also aim to establish perceptual-motor evaluation and training protocols in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease cohorts.

“It is a great honor to be a part of this inaugural award!” Ofori said. “This award helps my research program to recruit and build a foundation to examine how areas in the brain that are involved with visual integration and motor control impact those with memory loss and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

The awards were made possible through the generosity of Charlene and J. Orin Edson as part of their transformative $50 million dollar gift to Arizona State University in 2019.

In addition to the funds to conduct their pilot research studies, the awards program also provides mentorship and guidance from Edson College Professor and Edson Chair in Dementia Translational Nursing Science Fang Yu.

Ultimately the idea is that these and future projects will obtain strong preliminary data to be used to apply for external grants to continue the research.

“The upfront review and revision of the research protocol will position these projects to generate the preliminary data needed to support future proposals for funding. The consultant and I will continue to work with the awardees during the project implementation and dissemination period to help ensure methodological and scientific merits of the projects,” Yu said.

Edson College Dean Judy Karshmer says the Edson Discovery Pilot Awards for Dementia Caregiving will act as sort of a research incubator, fostering support for new and interesting projects that address a significant knowledge gap or advance current science.

“We know that ASU has some of the best minds in the world when it comes to Alzheimer’s and Dementia caregiving research. So our goal is to encourage these great minds to really go for it and we’ll fund you, guide you and help you test your hypothesis,” Karhsmer said.

Another unique requirement of this new awards program is that the study must involve undergraduate students in a meaningful way, something both of these first projects do.

“This key feature is critical to plant the seeds of research and innovation to grow future generations of researchers and practitioners to affect research, policy, and service for years to come,” Yu said.

The inaugural projects began on Aug. 1.

Applications for the Edson Discovery Pilot Awards for Dementia Caregiving will open on a yearly basis. Dementia caregiving is broadly defined as involving caregivers who provide care to people with dementia, measuring caregiver outcomes or benefiting caregivers.

In order to be considered for selection, specific criteria must be met including that the study is led by an ASU faculty member with the skills and expertise to conduct it.

Amanda Goodman
agoodma1@asu.edu