Improving Mobility to Improve Cognition: SYNERGIC Trial

“We have learned that the brain processes involved in activities like walking, and the processes involved in how a person solves a problem share similar locations and networks in the brain. Because problems with mobility are connected to a reduction in cognitive function, they can be a good indicator of a person’s future progression into a state of dementia.” Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso

Dr. Montero-Odasso (left) and Dr. Bherer (right), leaders of the Mobility, Exercise and Cognition (MEC) team of the CCNA.

Currently, more than 500,000 Canadians are living with dementia, and there are no effective treatments to reverse it. Yet, in the early stages of cognitive decline – i.e. mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – interventions may help to delay its progression to dementia.

There is mounting evidence that physical exercises and computer-based cognitive training may help to increase cognitive performance. Alternatively, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a progression from MCI to dementia.

Applying theory to practice, Drs. Louis Bherer and Manuel Montero-Odasso – research team leaders within the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging – designed the SYNERGIC Trial to evaluate the effectiveness of aerobic and strength training exercises that are either isolated or combined with cognitive training and vitamin D supplementation in older adults who have MCI. Their focus is on individuals with MCI because interventions are more likely to have an effect and can be monitored in this group.

Next Steps:

If these interventions show promising results in improving cognition, they may serve as an effective treatment to delay progression from MCI to dementia and may be introduced more broadly in healthcare treatments.

To determine this, the SYNERGIC Trial aims to recruit 200 older adults with MCI at five sites across Canada, including: Wilfred Laurier University (site leader Dr. Almeida), University of Waterloo (site leader Dr. Middleton), Université de Montréal (site leader Dr. Bherer), University of British Columbia (site leader Dr. Liu-Ambrose), and University of Western Ontario (site leader Dr. Montero-Odasso).

Are you interested in participating? If so: Do you have memory problems? Are you aged 60 or older? To learn more, please contact or visit

The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the authors (individual CCNA scientists) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging and its partner organizations.