A Pilot randomized clinical trial of adapted tango to improve cognition and psychosocial function in African American women with family history of Alzheimer’s disease (ACT trial)

Whitney Wharton, Leanne Jeong, Liang Ni, Allison A. Bay, Ryan J. Shin, Lauren E. McCullough, Hayley Silverstein, Ariel R. Hart, Dominika Swieboda, William Hu, Madeleine E. Hackney

Publication Date: 06/01/2021

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating, progressive neurodegenerative disease resulting in memory loss and a severe reduction in the ability to perform activities of daily living. Ethnicity-related genetic factors promoting the development of dementias among African Americans (AA) and increased risk among women for developing AD indicates that AA women with a parental history of AD are at great risk for developing AD. This phase I study assessed the impact of a 12 week, 20-lesson adapted Argentine Tango intervention (n = 24) to a no-contact control group (n = 10) on measures of plasma inflammatory markers, cognition, and motor and psychosocial performance in middle-aged AA woman at increased risk for AD by virtue of parental history. Some woman (n = 16) were also caregivers; thus, the impact of the intervention on caregiving burden was examined in this subset. Preliminary analysis of efficacy was conducted with significance tests on biomarkers and key measures of cognition, including visuospatial and executive function, balance, and strength. After 12 weeks, Tango participants had significantly decreased inflammatory cytokine, including reductions in IL-7 (p = 0.003), IFN-γ (p = 0.011), TNFα (p = 0.011), and MCP-1 (p = 0.042) compared to controls. Large effects were noted for the Tango group on tests of executive functioning (d = 0.89), and inhibition (p = 0.031). Participants in Tango improved in dynamic and static balance (p = 0.018) and functional lower body strength (p = 0.023). Secondary assessment revealed trends favoring the intervention group were noted in spatial cognition and executive function. Moderate effects were noted in caregiving burden measures among the subset of caregivers. These data demonstrate substantial reductions in inflammatory biomarkers along with cognitive and motor improvements through a non-pharmacologic, affordable intervention among a small, well-characterized cohort of AA women with a parental history of AD.