Cognitive Function Research

Cognitive Function Research

Recent research has identified that lutein and zeaxanthin are also present in brain tissue. This has led researchers to suggest that these nutrients may also have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory role in the brain, similar to that in the human retina (the retina is part of the central nervous system). A number of studies have also suggested that diets high in omega-3, an essential fatty acid, have a protective role in maintaining healthy brain function. Some studies also suggest that vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, may provide protection against a decline in brain function.

In a previous study (the Carotenoids and Age-Related Dementia Study [CARDS]) performed by our research group, it was shown that supplementation with the macular carotenoids benefited patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease in terms of increases in macular pigment and clinically meaningful improvements in cognition were observed. It may be argued that the cognitive ability of Alzheimer’s patients may have deteriorated too rapidly to show any meaningful effect. Therefore, studying cognitive impairment at an earlier stage may prove more informative. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between the normal changes in cognition associated with ageing and very early dementia. Although MCI is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, some individuals with this condition revert to normal or do not progress. Individuals with the condition will exhibit a decline in their cognitive abilities (memory, thinking abilities); however, these changes are not significant enough to affect daily life or functioning. Therefore, individuals with MCI are a suitable population group to study cognition over time, and the potential role nutrition may have in terms of cognitive function.

The Cognitive impAiRmEnt Study (CARES) is a continuation of the research performed with Alzheimer’s patients, which aims to investigate if nutritional supplementation with the macular carotenoids, vitamin E and fish oil improves cognitive function among individuals with MCI. CARES is a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. This means that some volunteers will consume the active tablet containing sunflower oil only. Importantly, neither the volunteers enrolled nor the study researchers will know which volunteers are consuming which tablet. The tablets will be provided free of charge by the study investigators. This study aims to recruit 120 volunteers, 60 individuals with MCI and 60 individuals with no cognitive impairment. Each volunteer will attend the WIT West Campus, in Carriganore, Waterford on four occasions over a 24 month period: screening (to confirm eligibility); baseline (beginning of the study); 12 months and 24 months. For more information about the study and how to take part, click here.

  • Professor John Nolan

    Professor John Nolan is the Principal Investigator of the Macular…

  • Rebecca Power

    Rebecca is a research technician with the Macular Pigment Research…

Article Author(s) Journal Year
Plasma Lutein and Zeaxanthin Are Associated With Better Cognitive Function Across Multiple Domains in a Large Population-Based Sample of Older Adults: Findings from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging. Feeney J, O'Leary N, Moran R, O'Halloran AM, Nolan JM, Beatty S, Young IS, Kenny RA 2017
Macular Pigment, Visual Function, and Macular Disease among Subjects with Alzheimer's Disease: An Exploratory Study Nolan JM, Loskutova E, Howard AN, Moran R, Mulcahy R, Stack J, Bolger M, Dennison J, Akuffo KO, Owens N, Thurnham DI, Beatty S 2014
The Impact of Supplemental Macular Carotenoids in Alzheimer's Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nolan JM, Loskutova E, Howard A, Mulcahy R, Moran R, Stack J, Bolger M, Coen RF, Dennison J, Akuffo KO, Owens N, Power R, Thurnham D, Beatty S. 2014

PROJECTS

CARES

CARES is a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. This means that some volunteers will consume the active tablet containing the macular pigments, vitamin E and fish oil, and others will consume the placebo tablet containing no macular pigments, vitamin E or fish oil. Importantly, neither the volunteers enrolled nor the study researchers will know which volunteers are consuming which tablet. This study aims to recruit 120 volunteers, 60 individuals with a mild cognitive impairment and 60 individuals with no cognitive impairment. Each volunteer will attend the WIT West Campus, in Carriganore, Waterford on three occasions over a 24 month period (baseline (beginning of the study), 12 months, and 24 months). Each study visit will last between 2 and 2.5 hours. Refreshments and breaks will be provided as requested. The volunteers
will be asked to take either an active tablet containing the macular pigments (10mg L, 10mg MZ and 2mg Z), vitamin E (15mg) and fish oil (1g) or a placebo (capsule containing sunflower oil but no active ingredients) once a day for 24 months.
The tablets (supplements) will be provided free of charge by the study investigators.