Two research teams from The University of Western Australia have won almost $1 million funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council to tackle dementia.
Professor Sergio Starkstein and Professor David Bruce, who are based at the Neuropsychiatry Unit at Fremantle Hospital, won $516,278 for their research into the impact of apathy on patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Clinical neuropsychologist Mandy Vidovich and Professor Osvaldo Almeida, who both work at the WA Centre for Heath and Ageing, have been awarded $467,208 for their project to examine the benefits of mental activity in preventing memory decline.
Ms Vidovich said volunteer subjects' performance and quality of life would be monitored over a year. "Past research has shown that mentally stimulating leisure activities can boost cognition and memory as well as reduce the risk of dementia, so we now want to identify the best types of activities and times to introduce these to prevent or delay memory decline," she said.
Alzheimer's Australia estimates that there are at least 227,300 people with dementia in Australia and it is expected to rise to around 731,000 by 2050 unless there is a medical breakthrough.
Professor Almeida, director of research at the WA Centre for Health and Ageing, said a concerted effort was needed to help the ageing population avoid this burden. "As the population ages, the risk of dementia increases and there are still no clues for a cure, so this grant will be put to good use in helping us develop effective strategies to prevent or delay its onset," he said.
Professor Starkstein and Professor Bruce said behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia had been consistently associated with increased patients' distress, and were considered by caregivers as the most difficult symptoms to manage.
"In spite of the high frequency of apathy in dementia and the high potential of negative effects on patients and caregivers, little is known about the cause of this phenomenon, its potential influence on the long-term progression of Alzheimer's disease, and its impact on caregivers' emotional well-being," they said.
"In particular, we will determine whether apathy predicts more severe depression, increasing motor problems, and a faster progression of cognitive and functional problems. Using state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques we will examine the association between apathy and abnormalities in specific brain regions."
People 65 and over who are experiencing memory problems and would like to volunteer for either study are invited to contact:
- Cheryl Ackoy on 9224 2855 for the WA Centre for Health and Ageing
- Simone Brockman on 9431 3643 for the Neuropsychiatry Unit, Fremantle Hospital.
Mandy Vidovich WA Centre for Health and Ageing 61 8 9224 2855
Simone Brockman Neuropsychiatry Unit, Fremantle Hospital 61 8 9431 3643
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) 61 8 6488 5563 / 0432 637 716