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Rhode Island Hospital to study driving ability of cognitively impaired elders

Rhode Island Hospital has received a renewal of a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to continue to examine the driving abilities of elderly drivers. The study is the first of its kind to directly examine cognitively impaired elders in their natural driving environments.

Under the direction of principal investigator Brian Ott, MD, director of the Alzheimers Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital, 150 older drivers will be studied 50 with mild Alzheimers disease, 50 with questionable or mild dementia and 50 with no cognitive impairment.

In the study, driving performance in a structured road test will be compared to performance in an unstructured, natural driving setting. The comparison will help to understand the validity of the road test as a standard for driving assessment in this population and will also allow researchers to quantify the types of errors made while driving.

Ott says, The knowledge gained from this longitudinal study will further advance our understanding of this very important and vexing problem of drivers with early dementia. This study has the potential to produce a solution to identifying those at greatest risk for hazardous driving, as it will help us to develop computerized measures as a screening measure in the clinicians office practice or in a department of motor vehicles.

The subjects will be digitally videotaped in their own cars, driving in their natural environments. These recordings will be compared to performance on computerized measures of visual attention and executive function. The same subjects will be similarly analyzed in an extended version of the Rhode Island adaptation of the Washington University Road Test, a performance-based assessment for drivers with dementia. Assessments will be done at baseline and repeated at one year.


Contact: Nancy Cawley

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