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The Brain Health Champion (BHC) Study

Significant evidence has shown that certain behavior and lifestyle changes, such as increased physical and mental activity, adoption of specific dietary habits, aerobic exercise, and stress reduction can positively impact brain health and reduce cognitive decline.  As research in Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias (ADRDs) increasingly moves toward prevention, treatment models are needed to incorporate this knowledge into patient care.

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The BHC Study is assessing the use of trained health coaches (“Brain Health Champions”) and various technologies, including mobile health platforms and fitness trackers/biosensors, to actively motivate patients (and caregivers) to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles and participate in activities known to promote brain health and prevent cognitive decline.

Health coaches provide individualized support to patients by encouraging and monitoring progress, offering regular feedback, and serving as a liaison between patients and their clinicians.  Ultimately, the goal is to improve patient care and clinical outcomes, both for patients with ADRDs and individuals with elevated risk for developing these conditions.

The BHC Study has received initial funding through the Alzheimer Innovation Fund at BWH, founded in 2016 by the Vettel family and bolstered by the generosity of many additional supporters.  To continue its mission, the BHC Study relies on ongoing philanthropic support. Please consider donating today.

BHC Study – “Pilot 1.0: Health coaches”

From 2017 to 2018, the BHC Study ran a 6-month, randomized clinical trial involving 40 patients at the CBMM with mild dementia, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or subjective cognitive decline. In one group, health coaches carried out weekly motivational interviewing phone calls, counseling with a dietician, and in-person visits with participants, guiding them to achieve personalized, brain health goals. In the other group, providers continued with usual in clinical care, without health coaches. Changes in behavior were measured using validated questionnaires. The health coach group showed significant, positive differences in physical activity, adherence to a Mediterranean diet, social activity, and quality of life compared to the usual care group.

The published study is  available in PubMed.

BHC Study – “Pilot 2.0: Health coaches plus mobile technology.”

From 2019 to the present, the BHC Study is running a second clinical trial with patients who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and who are at risk for dementia, at the CBMM and at Primary Care at BWH. This trial is testing the feasibility of adding multiple elements to the health coach program in Pilot 1.0, including digital assessments, a mobile health platform for virtual visits (available on smartphones), photographing of dietary intake, and use of fitness trackers. Preliminary results demonstrate the feasibility of use of these mobile health and other technologies in brain health education.

Additional details of the BHC study can be found on its NIH listing.


Laboratory of Healthy Cognitive Aging

Led by Dr. Kirk Daffner, Director of the BWH Center for Brain/Mind Medicine and J. David  and Virginia Wimberly Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, this laboratory focuses on the neurological foundations of executive control functions and attention to novelty.



Members of our team collaborate with the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (MADRC), which offers education programs for communities and healthcare professionals. If you’re interested in learning more, we would love to have you sign up for our education registry.

We send quarterly emails with information about ongoing research and educational events in the greater Boston community. In addition, we periodically ask people in our registry to complete short online questionnaires, related to topics such as dementia knowledge, lifestyle habits, psychosocial factors, and attitudes related to clinical research. You may also be asked if you would be willing to try out some new memory tests we are developing that can be completed on your smartphone.

Sign up for our education registry!

Please email us to join the registry and be added to our mailing list

Thank you very much for your interest in our research!

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