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Partnered Rhythmic Rehabilitation in People With Mild Cognitive Impairment


For people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to early Alzheimer's disease, treatment options to prevent declined function are limited. This study will test a social dance intervention using partnered rhythmic rehabilitation that challenges both the mind and body for its potential to prevent future functional problems in people with MCI.

Minimum Age Maximum Age Gender Healthy Volunteers
50 Years 80 Years All No
October 29, 2019
March 2024

  • Having amnestic MCI, as defined by:
    • Subjective memory concern or a memory problem reported by their study partner
    • Abnormal memory function as documented by a specified score on the delayed paragraph recall of a story of the Logical Memory subtest from the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised
    • Mini-Mental State Exam score between 24-30 (exceptions possible for those with less than eight years of education)
    • Clinical Dementia Rating Scale score of 0.5; Memory Box score of at least 0.5
    • Preserved general functional performance
  • Impaired executive function based on the results of a specific Montreal Cognitive Assessment and an Executive Functioning Index composite score
  • Ability to walk 10 feet or more without an assistive device
  • Completed six grades of education or has a good work history
  • Achieves less than 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week
  • Not involved in any structured exercise program within the past three months (brisk walks are considered formal exercise, but leisurely walks are not)
  • Not hospitalized within the last 60 days

  • Acute medical illness requiring hospitalization
  • Uncontrolled congestive heart failure
  • History of stroke in the past three years
  • Inability to undergo MRI (e.g., metal implants, cardiac pacemaker, or claustrophobia)
  • Medical or physical conditions that would prevent participation (e.g., severe arthritis or mobility problems, uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes, renal failure, and history of angina with activity)
  • Prohibited medications: drugs that could adversely affect cognition, including antipsychotics, opioids, stimulants, chemotherapy, anti-parkinsonian drugs (e.g., levodopa), and neurologic prescriptions to treat multiple sclerosis and/or Parkinson's
  • If taking cholinesterase inhibitors or memantine, must be on stable dose for at least three months
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Neurologic conditions, such as active central nervous system opportunistic infections, seizure disorders, head injury with loss of consciousness >30 minutes, intracranial neoplasms, and stroke that results in new neurologic or neuropsychiatric conditions
  • History of substance use disorder, and/or major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders within six months of study evaluation

Partnered rhythmic rehabilitation is a moderate intensity, cognitively engaging social dance. It involves learning complex stepping patterns and fosters communication through touch between partners, enhancing social interaction.

In this one-year study, participants will be randomly assigned to participate in partnered rhythmic rehabilitation or a walking program. In the first three months, participants will be assigned to 20 biweekly, 90-minute lessons. In a nine-month maintenance phase, participants will attend weekly lessons at least three times per month.

Class sizes will consist of 10 or fewer pairs of participants. Participants will learn about communication of motor goals through touch, exercises to understand the role of timing for movement to music, novel step introduction, and connection of previously learned and novel step elements.

Researchers will measure the efficacy, acceptability, safety, and tolerability of partnered rhythmic rehabilitation, along with participant satisfaction.

Name City State Zip Status Primary Contact
Emory University
Atlanta Georgia 30322 Recruiting Madeleine Hackney, MD

Emory University

  • National Institute on Aging (NIA)

Name Role Affiliation
Madeleine Hackney, PhD Principal Investigator Emory University

Name Phone Email
Madeleine Hackney, PhD 404-321-6111


Partnered Rhythmic Rehabilitation for Enhanced Motor-Cognition in Prodromal Alzheimer's Disease