ACSM Annual Meeting Highlighted Symposium: Exercise and Dementia: Current Evidence and Opportunities in Prevention and Treatment | Tuesday, May 26, 2020 from 3:15-5:15pm PST
Born and raised in Brazil, Narlon C Boa Sorte Silva attended the Universidade Nove de Julho in São Paulo, where he received his BSc in Physical Education and Exercise Science (2014). He was motivated to study exercise science because of his deep interest in fitness and health promotion—although he might say that it was also because of his love for playing, watching and breathing basketball.
In 2015, Narlon started the MSc program in the School of Kinesiology under the supervision of Dr. Robert Petrella (Family Medicine) at Western University in London, ON, Canada. Due to his rapid progress in the MSc program, Narlon was then invited to transfer to the Ph.D. program also at Western. During his graduate studies, he has also committed time to learn and implement novel training methods, working in his side gig as a Hybrid Fitness Strength coach in London. He is a big fan of high-intensity interval training, gymnastics and weightlifting.
Narlon has received and/or is currently holding scholarships from the MITACS Globalink Graduate Fellowship program, the Lawson Internal Research Fund, the Western Graduate Research Scholarship, the Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and is a Co-Applicant in the Heart and Stroke Grant-In-Aid program from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Narlon studies non-pharmacological interventions to improve cognitive function and reduce cardiovascular risk factors burden in older adults at risk for dementia.
ACSM staff asked Narlon a series of questions to learn more about this year's Annual Meeting, his research and what you can expect from his symposium.
1) I will cover the current state of knowledge regarding combined exercise interventions and high-intensity interval training to improve cognition in older adults, and 2) discuss the current limitations in the literature, while attempting to provide useful recommendations for knowledge translation initiatives (e.g., exercise prescription) and future directions for research in the field.
Since starting my BSc program in Physical Education in Brazil, I have always been interested in health promotion research. Early in my career, I knew I wanted to pursue life in academia with a primary focus on research with exercise and aging. While in the MSc program at Western University in Canada, my interests evolved into exploring the effects of exercise on mobility and cognitive function in older adults. As I became aware of the dementia burden worldwide and the horrible consequences of the disease, I decided to dedicate my efforts to investigating means to prevent the condition in those at high risk. I am very fortunate to work in a lab that allows me to get involved in pragmatic, community-based research through which I can learn from my experiences with people in the community. These experiences have shaped my current vision for my career, which I hope to evolve around research that is clinically relevant, collaborative in nature, and easily translated into real-world settings. I ultimately hope to aid in reducing dementia burden on families, caregivers and health care systems worldwide.
We have published novel studies looking at combined exercise-based strategies to improve cognition in older adults at risk of dementia. I have had the opportunity to author some of these publications. Our investigations have shown that combing different exercise modalities (i.e., aerobic and resistance) with mind-motor training may impart positive benefits to cognitive function, particularly memory in community-dwelling older adults.
Without effective drug therapy, understanding the potential of exercise in preventing dementia is critical—this is the field of research I aim to lead. Multidomain exercise-based programs seem be a promising alternative with the potential to impart long-lasting benefits. I am glad our research is showing some positive results that support this view. It is fulfilling to know that the people I work and interact with in our studies are benefitting from our research. Having a positive impact on these individuals outweighs the many sacrifices involved in pursuing a career in research.
I hope the findings from our research is helping inform recommendations for exercise prescription in older adults, and aid in reducing dementia risk in the community.
Currently, I am studying the deleterious effects of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease risk factors in cognitive function yielding vascular cognitive impairment, the second most common cause of dementia. Under the supervision of Dr. Petrella, I am investigating the effects of mind-motor training and high-intensity interval training exercise on cardiovascular health and cognitive function in older adults with hypertension and early signs of cognitive impairment. Our current study, funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, is designed to impart cognitive improvements by specifically targeting blood pressure management and improving overall cardiovascular health in this high-risk population.
In addition to my scientific and academic endeavors, I like writing poetry.
I was raised by my grandmother and she has always been the greatest person I know. She had little to no formal education, suffered through the toughest times living in one of the poorest and driest regions of Brazil, raising her children in a little house on a small farm. Two years ago, when I called her on Christmas Day, she did not recognize my voice, she was confused and could not remember who I was. I am not sure of what her diagnosis would be, probably sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. This is one example of how dementia affects many families worldwide, especially in developing countries. These are the people for whom I dedicate my efforts every second of every day, and they are the ones motivating my late hours at work. My grandma taught me through her own life story that there are unique individuals in the world capable of making incredibly positive contributions to one’s life, on a small or large scale. I wish to be one of them. That is what inspires me to do research, as I know research and scientific knowledge empower the greatest changes in the world.