National Institutes of Health’s  $3.4 Million Grant to Help Older People Stay Mobile

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $3.4 million grant to Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, to identify cognitive factors that influence mobility in older people—in particular, those that could be modified to help older people remain active.

Roee Holtzer

Roee Holtzer, PhD

“Mobility limitations and disability in aging are major public health concerns,” said Roee Holtzer, Ph.D., principal investigator for the study and associate professor of psychology at Ferkauf and associate professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein. “We will recruit 450 people age 70 and older for baseline and annual follow-ups over the five-year study period.”

Participants enrolled in the National Institute on Aging grant will undergo clinical, neuropsychological and physical exams as well as state-of-the art cognitive and neuroimaging assessments. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology, developed by the optical engineering group at Drexel University, will be used to assess changes in brain function during various walking conditions. “Ideally, these assessments will reveal specific cognitive abilities and brain structures and functions that correlate with mobility problems or that predict their occurrence,” said Dr. Holtzer. “Then we want to see whether efforts to modify those factors, which include the ability to concentrate and allocate attention resources to competing task demands, can help in preventing mobility decline and disability in these individuals.”

The project, which began in March, is an interdisciplinary collaboration involving Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology; Einstein’s neurology and epidemiology & population health departments and its Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center; and the optical engineering group at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.

“Dr. Holtzer’s most recent research grant has important practical implications for developing a profile for predicting risk factors for serious mobility problems and potential for major physical injury by falling in the elderly,” said Dr. Lawrence Siegel, dean and professor at Ferkauf. “Given the highly competitive environment for federal grant funding, Ferkauf is very proud of Dr. Holtzer and his receipt of this important grant.  As a result of this grant Dr. Holtzer will also be able to fund a number of stipends for Ferkauf graduate students who are working with him on his research.”