Spotlight on Dementia: Photo competition for Alzheimer's Society funded researchers

Spotlight on Dementia is a research photography competition for Alzheimer's Society funded researchers to showcase captivating images and videos to illustrate that dementia research can be beautiful.

What is Spotlight on Dementia?

Spotlight on Dementia is a research image competition launched by Alzheimer's Society in 2021.

This competition is for our funded researchers to submit images and videos of their research to one of four categories.

The results are now in

This year we received incredible imagery – both as photos and as video – showcasing just how diverse and exciting dementia research really is. 

Our judging panel had a challenging task of selecting winners from such an outstanding collection of submissions.

Thank you to each and every one of our researchers for entering the competition, and a massive congratulations to our four category winners and overall winner.

Overall winner

Dr Charlie Arber, Senior Research Fellow at UCL Institute of Neurology 

Congratulations to Charlie for this stunning entry, Bed of Rosettes.

The judges loved the beautiful colours and flower imagery in his photo. Because it shows the very beginnings of brain cells, it gives a message of hope for finding treatments for dementia in the future.

A black square image with a ring of vibrant blue petal shapes with bright green and yellow around it

Bed of Rosettes, submitted by Dr Charlie Arber

About this submission: Bed of Rosettes

Researchers like Charlie use stem cells - cells which don't have a special function yet - to grow human brain cells in a dish. This can help to understand how dementia starts. This flower-like picture shows a neural rosette - a group of cells which are half way to becoming a brain cells. The green strands are cells turning into brain cells around the edges of the rosette. 

Buy a T-shirt, tote bag or mug of Bed of Rosettes

You can buy merchandise of Bed of Rosettes from our online shop. 100% of our profits are used to support people affected by dementia across the UK. Every purchase has a lasting impact and makes a difference.

Prices are correct as of August 2022. These items are limited edition so will only be available while stocks last.

Category winner for Under the lens

Barbara Sarkany, DPhil Student at University of Oxford

Congratulations to Barbara for this wonderful entry, Sky of the Brain.

A marblesque combination of yellows, reds, blues and purples.

Sky of the Brain, submitted by Barbara Sarkany

About this submission: Sky of the Brain

Tau proteins are found in the brain and normally have a role in giving stability to brain cells. But altered forms of tau can build up and clump together, forming 'tangles' in the brain which researchers think are linked to dementia.

The green spots in this image are mutant human tau proteins, generated in a mouse brain, in an area known to be affected by dementia in a human brain. The markers used to colour the brain cells (yellow, red, blue) give an impression of constellations of stars around the Milky Way in the sky rather than proteins in the brain.

Category winner for Research in motion

Dr Emma Ferguson-Coleman, Research Fellow at University of Manchester

Congratulations to Emma for this moving entry, Losing my Language.

Video transcription: 'My signing is slowly disappearing, and I am slowly fading away.'

About this submission: Losing my Language

An actor using Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) represents a Deaf man living with dementia taking part in research.

'Harold' (not his real name) is explaining his feelings about living with dementia and what the future might bring for him. Harold uses just one simple and evocative sign, which absolutely demonstrates his understanding of what will change for him, sharing his awareness that dementia will diminish his ability to communicate fluently in his own language and to be fully present within his family. 

Category winner for The unexpected

Chloe Place, Research Associate at University of Exeter 

Congratulations to Chloe for this captivating entry, La Virgen María watches over me.

Different images of local Virgin Mary statues are tucked behind a person with dementia's falls alarm

La Virgen María watches over me, submitted by Chloe Place.

About this submission: La Virgen María

While researching dementia care in Andalusia, Spain, Chloe was surprised by how spirituality was creatively used in everyday dementia care. The care home she visited was covered in local Virgin Mary saint statues and other Catholic symbols.

Staff deliberately included spiritual rituals into their activities programme, such as workshops for residents to decorate a large crucifix. These symbols are everywhere in Andalusian society so can still be recognised by some people with advanced dementia, giving them comfort.

The image here is taken in a person with dementia's bedroom - she had tucked different images of local Virgin Mary statues behind her falls alarm to give her spiritual protection.

Category winner for Detective work

Coco Newton, PhD student at University of Cambridge 

Congratulations to Coco for this brilliant entry, Virtual Smile.

A black and white image of a light-haired woman smiling while wearing a virtual reality headset over her eyes, with her head tilted back and holding a controller

Virtual Smile, submitted by Coco Newton.

About this submission: Virtual Smile

What does the future of dementia diagnosis look like? Coco explores VR as a new tool to detect and diagnose dementia earlier. This tests navigation, which may be one of the first abilities to decline in a person living with dementia. If this is used in real-life clinical settings, it could be a more engaging assessment experience.

Diagnosing dementia as early as possible is so important to give people access to support and treatment when they work best. 

Thank you to everyone who entered

A huge thank you to all our fantastic entrants, whose submissions can be seen below.

And a very special thank you to our judging panel, which included members of our Research Network

  • Julia Burton, Research Network Volunteer
  • Angela Clayton-Turner, Research Network Volunteer
  • Alan Richardson, Research Network Volunteer
  • Tom Whipple, Science Editor, Times and Sunday Times

Watch two video entries on YouTube

These two videos were submitted to the Research in motion category.

Scroll through our gallery of submissions

Photo image categories

  • What can you see down the microscope that you can’t see normally? Can this be beautiful?

We’re looking for entries that show biomedical research can be artistic and beautiful – does a picture look more like a constellation of stars than cells on a petri dish? Does colour help to show the intricacy of the processes in the brain? The more abstract and creative, the better!

Pictures taken with a camera or computer-generated images are both welcome for this category. 

  • Can you capture a concept more easily through movement?
  • Is video the best way of showing us your research?

For this category, please send us a gif or video of any type of research (maximum one minute). Examples could be videos capturing machinery at work in cells or moments in group sessions during care research. 

  • Have you seen something in your research that was unexpected?
  • Have you made a beautiful or useful mistake?

We chose this category based on the Isaac Asimov quote: 'The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" but "that’s funny"…’

Please send us pictures of something you saw in any type of research which was unexpected or surprising – or even something that looked a bit strange.

In the description of your image tell us why it was unexpected, and what it led you to do – did it inspire future research?

  • Can a photo show how your research will help people diagnosed with dementia now or in the future?
  • Is there a way of showing the impact of your research? 
  • Did your research find a missing puzzle piece?

Send us photos of any type of research with an explanation for how this research will help people diagnosed with dementia now or in the future. This could be a new biomarker test, a different way of looking at a brain scan or research that has led to something new being implemented in care homes.

Support our pioneering dementia research

If you can, please consider making a donation towards our research. Just £10 today could help to fund an early career researcher’s study, which could lead to the breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Make a donation

With thanks to our friends at Epson

Epson logo

This article was first published on 22 November 2021 and was most recently updated on 10 August 2022.


1 comment

Un interesante desafío y oportunidad en tiempos de vejez sin fronteras. ¿Es la demencia tipo Alzheimer consecuencia y/o resultado de la pobreza, la mala calidad educativa, la mala alimentación y las injusticias sociales en tiempos de pobreza sin fronteras?