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Interdisciplinary Fellowship Grants, inviting teams of MIRA researchers to propose a project that will attract a highly qualified postdoctoral fellow to conduct collaborative and interdisciplinary research focused on aging. The interdisciplinary proposals are led by MIRA researchers and include at least two co-applicants from McMaster Faculties outside of the primary applicant’s. The proposals can also include knowledge users or mentors from outside academia. 

2021 Projects​

The digital empowerment of vulnerable senior living: A case study of digital literacy training at CityHousing Hamilton

  • Brian Detlor, Information Systems
  • Tara La Rose, Social Work
  • Carmela Laganse, School of the Arts
  • Brenda Silverthorne, Collaborator, CityHousing Hamilton
  • Lisa Weaver, Collaborator, Hamilton Public Library

This project explores digital literacy training solutions to address the tremendous gap in the digital empowerment of vulnerable seniors living in social housing projects, specifically at CityHousing Hamilton (CHH), with the help of digital literacy training resources available at Hamilton Public Library (HPL). These older adults experience poverty; generally lack the financial resources to obtain computer devices and access the internet; and often struggle to use information technology devices in their daily lives. Better access to digital literacy training is required for these older adults to succeed and thrive in daily life. This funding will allow a postdoctoral fellow to explore potential digital literacy training solutions for this community of seniors under the supervision of the academic research team (Detlor, La Rose, Laganse) and the general guidance of CHH (Silverthorne) and HPL (Weaver). Design thinking will inform the digital literacy training solutions to be explored. These will include design, testing and evaluation of over-the-phone training and the establishment of new digital literacy training solutions at HPL for the CHH community. The postdoctoral fellow will also help plan and develop a mobile/informal “pop-up” solution that can deliver flexible, sustainable digital literacy training to older vulnerable adults at a time and place that is convenient to them and when it is needed most. This research will yield theoretical contributions and practical recommendations. Importantly, this project will set a firm foundation for a SSHRC Partnership Grant application in the areas of digital literacy training assessments for older adults and mobile/informal “pop-up” trailer solutions that provide much needed “on-the-spot” digital literacy training for seniors. 

Unraveling the mechanisms contributing to the anti-aging effects of metformin

  • Gregory Steinberg, Medicine
  • Vladimir Ljubicic, Kinesiology
  • Stuart Phillips, Kinesiology
  • Saman Sadeghi, Chemistry and Chemical Biology
  • Michael Noseworthy, Electrical and Chemical Engineering
  • Guillaume Paré, Pathology and Molecular Medicine

Aging is the leading risk factor for developing many deleterious chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Over 60 per cent of those aged 65 and above have more than one chronic disease, which often leads to frailty and loss of independence. The type 2 diabetes medication metformin has been shown to delay the onset of many age-related diseases in mice and in cross-sectional studies in humans. However, how metformin exerts beneficial effects in so many tissues, despite acting primarily in the liver, is unknown. Our team discovered that metformin increases the production of certain hormones which are upregulated in the blood in aging in mice and humans, and are associated with reduced food intake, body mass and inflammation in animal models. In this project, a mouse model will be studied to better understand if and how these hormones may modulate the anti-aging effects of metformin. 

Does exercise enhance synaptic plasticity in individuals with mild cognitive impairment and in aging?

  • Aimee Nelson, Kinesiology
  • Margaret Fahnestock, Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences
  • Ravi Selvaganapathy, Mechanical Engineering
  • Martin Gibala, Kinesiology
  • Christopher Patterson, Geriatric Medicine​

Aerobic exercise appears to delay age-related decline in cognition and memory performance. The way in which exercise affects memory is not entirely clear, but there is no doubt that a molecule called brainderived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is involved. BDNF strengthens the connections between nerve cells in the brain, creating ‘synaptic plasticity.’ BDNF is reduced in Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and aging, and is increased by exercise. Our research asks whether exercise can increase synaptic plasticity in individuals living with MCI and in heathy aging. Using unique tools that involve noninvasive brain stimulation, six weeks of exercise training, measures of cognition and BDNF, this study will determine whether synaptic plasticity can be enhanced in MCI and aging and whether these changes relate to improvements in memory. Two groups of individuals diagnosed with MCI will be tested, one group will experience the exercise training and the other will not. A third group of age- and sexmatched cognitively healthy control participants will experience the exercise training. This research aims to improve cognition in MCI and the aging population and to understand the neural pathway by which improvements in cognition occur in response to exercise. This research will make significant advances in understanding how exercise improves cognition in aging.  ​​​

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