Luci, a Quebec application to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

This text is part of the special booklet Aging well, staying young

Nearly one million Canadians could have dementia in 2030, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. To reduce risk factors, a start-up Montrealer and a team of researchers have joined forces to develop an application that makes it possible to adopt healthy lifestyles more sustainably.

“Lucie was 75 years old when she began to have Alzheimer’s disease, she was losing her faculties, forgetting the names of people, changing her behavior”, recalls with sadness Marc-André Chagnon, president of the start-up Lucilab. Lucie was his grandmother, who died in 2014. As a young adult, he remembers his grandfather’s feeling of helplessness, a man of action used to finding solutions to problems. The latter became a caregiver, before founding Lucilab to fight Alzheimer’s disease. “How illness has affected their couple!” How much that changes your life! »Remarks Marc-André Chagnon, who has since taken over from his grandfather within the company.

In Canada, more than 500,000 people have a neurocognitive disorder, a number that could almost double over the next decade, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. The costs of cognitive impairment are estimated at more than $ 10 billion per year in the country.

To fight against these rapidly growing diseases in the country, the Lucilab team is focusing on prevention. Combining health, psychology and technology, his project aims to help adults aged 45 to 70 adopt healthy lifestyles whose effect on cognitive health has been proven. “The biggest innovation of this project is that the team works directly with the researchers in the co-creation, the conceptualization, the content, the areas that we prioritize”, observes Sylvie Belleville, president of the scientific committee at Lucilab. Could this approach, based on behavioral change theories, bring real changes in habit? This is what they believe.

The ingredients of change

How many servings of fruit do you eat daily? By opening the Luci application, you have to answer a few questions, before planning a first virtual meeting with an advisor, who plays a bit the role of a coach. We can then establish an action plan with very specific objectives. There’s no question of starting a whole new diet, trying to become an athlete, or making unachievable resolutions. “The key is to take small steps on what can be changed. You really have to integrate the changes, ”explains Isabelle Lussier, director of research at Lucilab.

The application is built around three axes: physical activity, mental stimulation and diet. Goals for participants may range from replacing butter with olive oil to cycling three times a week to work. “Follow-up appointments are made, we come back to the objectives, the obstacles and the solutions”, explains Mme Lussier, who adds that a person wanting to play sports can find activities to do at home when it snows in winter.

Participants also have access to a large library of content and health sheets, so that they can learn about the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. “We combine several approaches to behavior change theories, we observe what are the ingredients that will influence behavior, we see the most effective methods,” adds the scientist.

A scientific approach

“Over a period of eight weeks, half of the participants had reached their target,” explains Mme Lussier, about a first study that allowed their approach to be tested successfully. A six-month pilot study will begin this fall with volunteers to test longer-term lifestyle changes.

“It’s very exciting for researchers, because at the end of the day, we can play an important role,” observes Sylvie Belleville. “Often, we’re in the lab, but we don’t necessarily have the leverage to make things happen. In the long term, it will be very interesting to observe the data site which will make it possible to know what works, and what made it work ”, enthuses the researcher. “This will make it possible to specify, from a scientific point of view, the approach to behavior change. “

For now, the Luci application is offered free of charge. Adults between 50 and 70 can also register on the Lucilab portal to participate in the pilot study. With adequate financial support and the support of theartificial intelligence, the team hopes to be able to offer the application free of charge to as many people as possible.

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