Stirling researchers explore how assistive tech can help people with dementia

University of Stirling | February 2021 | Uni researchers explore how assistive tech can help people with dementia

A new research project will explore how assistive technology, such as telecare devices, can better support residents in retirement living schemes and those living with long-term conditions such as dementia.

The project INVITE (promoting inclusive living via technology-enabled support) is being funded by Longleigh Foundation and will investigate the success of assistive and everyday technologies in retirement living schemes and what further technologies might be required in the future.

This piece of research will combine the expertise of three acadmeics from the University of Stirling: Dr Jane Robertson, Dr Vikki McCall and Dr Grant Gibson from the Faculty of Social Sciences. Other stakeholders involved include the social housing provider Stonewater, as well as other experts from Stirlings Dr Steve Rolfe, a Research Fellow with expertise in housing, and Angela Pusram, a Research Assistant with expertise in dementia, will work with Stonewater’s retirement communities and their families in three localities of England – Eastbourne, Hereford and Nottingham (Source: University of Stirling).

Full details are available from the University of Stirling

Cambridge Research: Apathy could predict onset of dementia years before other symptoms

University of Cambridge | October 2020 |Apathy could predict onset of dementia years before other symptoms

A team of researchers led by Professor James Rowe at the University of Cambridge have shown how apathy predicts cognitive decline even before the dementia symptoms emerge. 

This longitudinal study followed 304 healthy participants who carry a faulty gene that causes frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and 296 of their relatives who have normal genes. All particpants were assessed at the outset of the study and every two years over several years. None had dementia, and most people in the study did not know whether they carry a faulty gene or not. The researchers looked for changes in apathy, memory tests and MRI scans of the brain, and they found that apathy severity increased over time in presymptomatic carriers, but not in non‐carriers. Among those who carried the gene , baseline gray matter volume of frontal lobe and cingulate cortex predicted the faster progression of apathy over 2 years. (Source: Malpetti, et al, 2020 & University of Cambridge).

“By studying people over time, rather than just taking a snapshot, we revealed how even subtle changes in apathy predicted a change in cognition, but not the other way around,” explained Malpetti, the study’s first author. “We also saw local brain shrinkage in areas that support motivation and initiative, many years before the expected onset of symptoms. The more we discover about the earliest effects of frontotemporal dementia, when people still feel well in themselves, hte better we can treat symptoms and delay or even prevent the dementia.

First author of the study Dr Maura Malpetti

The paper discusses how apathy is an early marker of FTD‐related changes and predicts a subsequent subclinical deterioration of cognition before dementia onset.

Malpetti, M. et al (2020)| Apathy in presymptomatic genetic frontotemporal dementia predicts cognitive decline and is driven by structural brain changes| Alzheimer’s & Dementia |https://doi.org/10.1002/alz.12252

Abstract
Introduction

Apathy adversely affects prognosis and survival of patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). We test whether apathy develops in presymptomatic genetic FTD, and is associated with cognitive decline and brain atrophy.

Methods

Presymptomatic carriers of MAPTGRN or C9orf72 mutations (N = 304), and relatives without mutations (N = 296) underwent clinical assessments and MRI at baseline, and annually for 2 years. Longitudinal changes in apathy, cognition, gray matter volumes, and their relationships were analyzed with latent growth curve modeling.

Results

Apathy severity increased over time in presymptomatic carriers, but not in non‐carriers. In presymptomatic carriers, baseline apathy predicted cognitive decline over two years, but not vice versa. Apathy progression was associated with baseline low gray matter volume in frontal and cingulate regions.

Discussion

Apathy is an early marker of FTD‐related changes and predicts a subsequent subclinical deterioration of cognition before dementia onset. Apathy may be a modifiable factor in those at risk of FTD.

Primary paper is published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia

University of Cambridge Apathy could predict onset of dementia years before other symptoms

Apathy in presymptomatic genetic frontotemporal dementia predicts cognitive decline and is driven by structural brain changes

In the news:

Science Daily Apathy could predict onset of dementia years before other symptoms

The Daily Mail Apathy and lack of motivation in your mid-forties could be an early warning sign of dementia, study suggests

Alzheimer’s Research: Progressing towards a tau blood test for Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s Research UK | July 2020 | Progressing towards a tau blood test for Alzheimer’s disease

  • Four new studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) and two published papers show that levels of tau, a hallmark protein of Alzheimer’s disease, in the blood could be used to detect the disease
  • The research focuses on a specific form of tau, p-tau217
  • The new data suggests blood levels of p-tau217 can predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear, track well with levels of tau in the brain and distinguish Alzheimer’s from other diseases that cause dementia

Researchers from both the US and Europe have presented data that indicates levels of a specific form of tau, one of the hallmark proteins of Alzheimer’s disease, can be measured in blood to detect the disease, even before symptoms appear. 

Full details of the studies are available from Alzheimer’s Research UK

In the news:

The Independent ‘Exciting’ results on blood test that could detect Alzheimer’s 20 years before memory falter

BBC News Alzheimer’s: ‘Promising’ blood test for early stage of disease

The Telegraph Flu jab may reduce risk of dementia by a fifth, study finds

Finding a life-changing treatment for dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK has called on government to invest in six priority research areas, which will help to deliver a life-changing treatment for dementia

moonshot
Image source: https://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/

In their 2019 manifesto, the Conservative party pledged to launch a “Dementia Moonshot” to find a cure for dementia – doubling research funding and speeding up trials for new treatments.

Alzheimer’ Research UK are now calling for action to deliver on those commitments. In this publication, Alzheimer’s UK puts forward the steps government must take to deliver its Moonshot ambition of finding a life-changing treatment for dementia.

 

 

These are:

  1. Find ways to detect the diseases that cause dementia 10-15 years earlier, to broaden the search for new treatments and intervene with those most at risk of developing dementia.
  2. Find ways to more effectively validate novel targets in early drug development to maximise chances of successful clinical trials.
  3. Make the UK the best place to conduct clinical dementia research.
  4. Expand research infrastructure to maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in dementia research.
  5. Further our understanding of dementia risk reduction and prevention and dementia in the context of multi-morbidities.

Full document: Delivering the Dementia Moonshot: A plan to find life-changing treatments 

Are large simple trials for dementia prevention possible?

William N Whiteley et al. | Are large simple trials for dementia prevention possible? | Age and Ageing | published 12th December 2019

  • Large simple trials have transformed care for heart attack and stroke. Lessons from these trials may be applicable to dementia prevention.
  • The size of the population and duration of follow-up needed for dementia prevention trials will be a major challenge. The reliable identification of higher risk populations is difficult but will be important.
  • Patients and families prioritise loss of function. Loss of functional abilities or clinical dementia are infrequent, but might be measured with lower variability than cognitive scores.

Abstract

New trials of dementia prevention are needed to test novel strategies and agents. Large, simple, cardiovascular trials have successfully discovered treatments with moderate but worthwhile effects to prevent heart attack and stroke. The design of these trials may hold lessons for the dementia prevention.Here we outline suitable populations, interventions and outcomes for large simple trials in dementia prevention. We consider what features are needed to maximise efficiency. Populations could be selected by age, clinical or genetic risk factors or clinical presentation. Patients and their families prioritise functional and clinical outcomes over cognitive scores and levels of biomarkers. Loss of particular functions or dementia diagnoses therefore are most meaningful to participants and potential patients and can be measured in large trials.

The size of the population and duration of follow-up needed for dementia prevention trials will be a major challenge and will need collaboration between many clinical investigators, funders and patient organisations.

Full article: Are large simple trials for dementia prevention possible?

Biggest ever map of human Alzheimer’s brain published

Alzheimer’s Research UK | February 2019| Biggest ever map of human Alzheimer’s brain published

A study of the differences between healthy brains and those with Alzheimer’s Disease has produced largest dataset of its type ever.

The team included researchers from the Universities of Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool and Auckland. The dataset is now freely available online for any scientist to use.

The research team also show that one region of the brain previously thought to be unaffected by the disease, the cerebellum, displayed a series of changes which they think might protect it from damage caused by Alzheimer’s.

brain-1787622_640 (1).jpg

The development is an important advance for scientists researching Alzheimer’s. Their analysis, mapped the relative levels of over 5,825 distinct proteins across six regions of the brain, generated a massive 24,024 data points.

The brain regions in the study included the more heavily affected Hippocampus, Entorhinal cortex, Cingulate gyrus and the less affected Motor Cortex, Sensory Cortex, and Cerebellum.

Full details from Alzheimer’s Research UK

See also: University of Manchester Biggest ever map of human Alzheimer’s brain published

Half of UK adults can’t identify single key risk factor for dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK | February 2019 | Half of UK adults can’t identify single key risk factor for dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the the UK’s leading dementia research charity, has published its findings  from one of the most comprehensive surveys of UK-wide public perceptions of dementia. They have been published today (6 February) by Alzheimer’s Research UK. The Dementia Attitudes Monitor, which will be repeated biennially, includes data from 2,361 interviews conducted by Ipsos MORI between 15 June and 5 July 2018.

The charity’s findings highlight enduring misconceptions around the physical nature of the diseases that cause dementia as well as low understanding of the risk factors for dementia, which is now the leading cause of death in the UK.

Dementia attitudes
Image source: dementiastatistics.org

 

The Monitor reveals that just 1% of UK adults are able to name seven known risk or protective factors for the dementia (risk factors: heavy drinking, genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes, protective factor: physical exercise) and 48% fail to identify any. With a third of cases of dementia thought to be influenced by factors in our control to change, the findings highlight a clear need for education around dementia prevention.

Key findings include:

  • More than half of UK adults (52%) now say they know someone with dementia.
  • Only half (51%) recognise that dementia is a cause of death* and more than 1 in 5 (22%) incorrectly believes it’s an inevitable part of getting older.
  • Only 34% of people believe it’s possible to reduce the risk of dementia, compared with 77% for heart disease and 81% for diabetes.
  • Three-quarters (73%) of adults would want to be given information in midlife about their personal risk of developing dementia later in life, if doctors could do so.

*Base: Adults 15+ in UK without a dementia diagnosis (2,354) (Source: Alzheimer’s Research UK)

Read the full news release at Alzheimer’s Research UK

Alzheimer’s Research UK Half of UK adults can’t identify single key risk factor for dementia

Read the full report here

See also:

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Research Hub  Public attitudes towards dementia

In the news:

BBC News Dementia risk factors not known by half the population

Neck scan could identify early symptoms of dementia in 5 minutes

British Heart Foundation | November 2018 | Neck scan predicts cognitive decline decade in advance

A research team lead by University College London (UCL) Professor John Deanfield, followed over 3000 participants over a fifteen-year period (3,191) middle-aged volunteers, who were given ultrasound in 2002 to measure the intensity of the pulse travelling towards their brain. Over the next 15 years, researchers monitored the participants memory and problem-solving ability.

hospital-3098683_640.jpg

According to the research a five minute scan of blood vessels in the neck during mid-life predicts cognitive decline a decade before symptoms appear, according to new research  co-funded by The British Heart Foundation. The findings were presented recently at the American Heart Association’s AHA Scientific Sessions conference in Chicago.

The study’s findings would need confirming in larger stuides, but the scan could potentially be used n future to help doctors identify patients who might be at high risk of developing dementia earlier than  previously possible. 

Those participants with the highest intensity pulse (top quarter) at the outset of the study were  approximately 50 per cent  more likely to exhibit accelerated cognitive decline during the next ten years when compared to the rest of the participant cohort. The researchers controlled factors which might also contribute to cognitive decline, like age, BMI, blood pressure and diabetes.

One of the researchers, Dr Scott Chiesa from UCL commented on their findings:

“These findings demonstrate the first direct link between the intensity of the pulse transmitted towards the brain with every heartbeat and future impairments in cognitive function.”

“It’s therefore an easily measurable and potentially treatable cause of cognitive decline in middle aged adults which can be spotted well in advance.” (Source: British Heart Foundation)

Full press release available from BHF 

In the media:

BBC News Dementia risk: Five-minute scan ‘can predict cognitive decline’

Evening Standard Dementia Screening: ‘Five minute neck scan could spot early signs’ say researchers 

 

 

Alzheimer’s Society to fund Exeter research into brain inflammation

University of Exeter | November 2018 | Alzheimer’s Society to fund Exeter research into brain inflammation

The Alzheimer’s Society is funding research at the University of Exeter as  part of a three-year project which will investigate the role that infections have in driving inflammation in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers have received a £361,000 grant to enable their research in this area. 

pexels-photo-356040.jpeg

Professor Katie Lunnon, Associate Professor of Epigenetics at the University of Exeter Medical School said: “Systemic infections, like pneumonia or a urinary tract infection, are associated with the onset of dementia, a faster rate of cognitive decline, and the increased risk of death in those living with dementia. Understanding the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease is of utmost importance if we are to treat the disease more effectively.” (Source: University of Exeter)

The full story is available from University of Exeter