Improvisational Movement to Improve Quality of Life in Older Adults With Early-Stage Dementia: A Pilot Study

Front Sports Act Living. 2022 Jan 14;3:796101. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2021.796101. eCollection 2021.


Alzheimer's disease has profound effects on quality of life, affecting not only cognition, but mobility and opportunities for social engagement. Dance is a form of movement that may be uniquely suited to help maintain quality of life for older adults, including those with dementia, because it inherently incorporates movement, social engagement, and cognitive stimulation. Here, we describe the methods and results of the pilot study for the IMOVE trial (NCT03333837,, a clinical trial designed to use improvisational dance classes to test the effects of movement and social engagement in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early-stage dementia. The pilot study was an 8-week investigation into the feasibility and potential effects of an improvisational dance intervention on people with MCI or early-stage dementia (PWD/MCI) and their caregivers (CG). The pilot aimed to assess changes in quality of life, balance, mood, and functional brain networks in PWD/MCI and their CG. Participants were recruited as dyads (pairs) that included one PWD/MCI and one CG. Ten total dyads were enrolled in the pilot study with five dyads assigned to the usual care control group and five dyads participating in the dance intervention. The intervention arm met twice weekly for 60 min for 8 weeks. Attendance and quality of life assessed with the Quality of Life in Alzheimer's disease (QoL-AD) questionnaire were the primary outcomes. Secondary outcomes included balance, mood and brain network connectivity assessed through graph theory analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Class attendance was 96% and qualitative feedback reflected participants felt socially connected to the group. Increases in quality of life and balance were observed, but not mood. Brain imaging analysis showed increases in multiple brain network characteristics, including global efficiency and modularity. Further investigation into the positive effects of this dance intervention on both imaging and non-imaging metrics will be carried out on the full clinical trial data. Results from the trial are expected in the summer of 2022.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; aging; brain; caregiver; dance; older adult.

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