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USC Seeking Volunteers for Research Study on Cognitive Health

Do you enjoy participating in scientific research projects, and helping researchers learn more about their specific areas of study?  Would you like to learn more about the way your own brain and body work…and earn a bit of cash while doing just that?  If you are between the ages of 55 and 80, can walk without assistance, and are fluent in English, you may qualify for a new study being conducted by USC’s Keck School of Medicine on cognitive and physical health…and the project researchers would love to hear from you.

The Buzz has written many times about how non-scientists have been recruited as “citizen scientist” observers by organizations such as the Natural History Museum, but another fascinating way to get involved in scientific research is to volunteer as a subject who is observed, in specific contexts, by others.  And since Los Angeles is home to several major research institutions, these kinds of opportunities actually pop up fairly frequently…and they can provide a unique look at the scientific research process in general, specific areas of research and, sometimes (depending on the study), even your own mind and body.

For the LEARNit study now recruiting at USC, volunteers will visit the Keck Medicine campus four times over the course of a year.  During the first visit, which lasts a couple of hours, there will be some simple physical and cognitive tests, to gauge each person’s suitability for the study.  If accepted, volunteers will wear a physical activity tracking device (similar to a Fitbit) for a month.  Then they will return to the lab for a full day of cognitive and physical tests, which will include (as outlined below) more physical and cognitive testing, including a blood draw, and MRI and PET brain scans (and, yes, they’ll give you a copy of your scans at the end of the study).

After the first full testing day, volunteers will be randomly assigned to one of two groups, one of which is assigned simple exercise tasks to perform for the next six months, while the other group is assigned a routine of cognitive tasks over the same period.  After six months, subjects return to USC for another day of testing.  Then they spend another six months NOT engaged in any specific activities, and return to the lab for a final study day.  Participants will also be paid a small stipend following each of the latter three study days (not a huge sum, but totalling more than $500 by the end of the study).

If you’re interested in science, research and/or the specific topic of cognitive health, and all of this sounds interesting to you, please contact the USC Imaging, Aging and Dementia Lab via one of the methods below.

[Full disclosure: this reporter and her family members, all generally curious and rather science-geeky, have participated in several USC and UCLA research studies over the last few years – and have found them both interesting and often quite enjoyable.  And, yes, I’ll be doing this one, too.]


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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    • Great – I know they’re still looking for subjects. Just use one of the contact methods above to get in touch with the researchers and start the screening process.


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