New study hopes to identify early signs of dementia, years before memory loss

Researchers seeking to recruit 100 people


Researchers are seeking to recruit 100 people to participate in a new large scale study which hopes to identify early signs of dementia years before memory loss and confusion develop.

A new three-year research programme called “Prevent” aims to detect early features of the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease in people with no symptoms. The study is being carried out by researchers at the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) at Trinity College Dublin, as part of a study in collaboration with Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh universities, Imperial College London in the UK and the Inserm Neuroscience in France.

Dementia affects up to 55,000 people in Ireland and 48 million worldwide. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-70 per cent of all cases. In total, 700 participants will be involved in the study.

The Irish research teams is looking to recruit 100 adults aged between 40-59 years of age, without dementia or any form of significant cognitive difficulty, some of whom have a parent with dementia and some who have not.

Having a parent with dementia is a risk factor for developing dementia, but it does not mean an individual will get dementia themselves.

Prof Brian Lawlor, co-principal investigator on the study, said by identifying early markers for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers may be able to design and implemented targeted intervention programmes to help delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

“Recent research indicates subtle changes in brain function or structure may be detectable during middle adulthood – years before the first clinical signs of dementia become apparent,” he said. “We believe that mid-life may be a golden time to introduce measures to help prevent the onset of dementia. But we need to know what are the earliest signals that mean that a person is at greater risk of developing dementia if we are to intervene at this stage.”

Scientists are looking for subtle, early changes in the neurological, cognitive and brain health of individuals who have no symptoms, but are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Tests will also be carried out on individuals who have a lower risk of developing the disease based on family history.

During the study, participants will be asked to provide biological samples, and complete cognitive, neurological and MRI neuroimaging assessments in the first year, and again, two years later.

The testing will happen in St James’s Hospital and Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.