Thank you to all of our Quantu Project volunteers and friends! Especially in this unpredictable and challenging year, we've been grateful for your engagement in advancing science and brain health.
A few updates from the Quantu Project Team:
Putting a Spring in Our Steps: This Spring we are completing our first exercise intervention study. Thank you to all our participants and the Quantu Project team members who made the study possible! Quantu Project manager Jennifer Brethen has been coordinating the study and working with our volunteers. Dr. Byron Long, Zach Maloney and Sean Tritley also helped Jenny in the lab. Participants volunteered to walk or run 30% more than their normal steps for 60 days starting in January 2021, take cognitive assessments and provide blood samples before and after the study. Building on prior research showing the benefits of exercise to the brain, their data will help us uncover how increased exercise affects brain function uniquely for different individuals. In particular, we're testing hypotheses about neurogenesis and circadian rhythm - two processes that are critical to daily brain function.
New Connections? The Quantu Project focuses on the roles of exercise, learning and sleep in changing the brain. At the same time, studies have shown that positive social interactions help maintain and improve cognitive performance across age groups, too (e.g., see Ybarra et al., 2008 or this summary).
During the pandemic, many people could use a few more social interactions. A few calls may make a difference. A 2021 JAMA Psychiatry paper reported that 4 weeks of phone calls (two or more calls per week) among strangers (from ages 27 to 101 yrs-old) alleviated symptoms of anxiety and depression. A history of anxiety and depression are associated with risks for cognitive decline, and alleviating both may help protect the brain.
We recently learned of several non-profits that aim to help increase social connections and wanted to share them with Quantu Project volunteers and friends. These include Friendly Voices (a phone buddy program for seniors), ShareAmi (sign-up form, French version, an intergenerational French learning site), and TeenLine, a teen-to-teen hotline. Thanks to Quantu Project Team Member Erin Pollet who recommended we look at these resources.
Awards & Honors: Congratulations to our Quantu Project Team Members Tomisin Adebayo and Dr. Amina Ann Qutub. Tomisin won a Xilinx-MATRIX AI Consortium for Human Well-Being fellowship to learn new methods of analyzing images of developing brain cells. Amina was elected a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering for her "outstanding contributions to systems biology of cellular processes including neurovascular communications."
Finally, we will be sending out an announcement of our upcoming Spring Workshop, planned for May. We're excited to report updates on the Quantu Project and look forward to hosting guest speakers for our brain health workshop series this Spring and Summer. Hope to see you at one or all of the 2021 workshops!
Wishing all of our Quantu Project volunteers and friends a Spring of renewal, recovery, and joy.