“Dr. Deborah Barnes, associate professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco, described Alzheimer’s as a global epidemic. In 2010, there were approximately 36 million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. She projects that figure will balloon to 115 million by 2050.
Barnes’ research focuses on the benefits of exercise and brain health. She discussed a new program at UCSF called Preventing Loss of Independence through Exercise (PLIE). As part of this treatment program, Alzheimer’s patients participate in group exercise sessions in which the group members sit in a circle and mimic movements of a facilitator. If a participant has trouble following the movements, he can look across the circle to mirror the movements of a fellow participant. The repetition of the movements builds muscle memory, which Barnes said the body maintains even as cognition begins to fail.
Barnes assertions about the connection between brain health and exercise are supported by studies published by the University of Copenhagen and the University of British Columbia earlier this year. Barnes said the Alzheimer’s Associate has funded the next phase of the PLIE program and hopes to offer similar programs throughout the Bay Area.”