Investigating who develops memory and thinking problems following a stroke and why

Lead investigator: Professor Joanna Wardlaw
Institution: The University of Edinburgh 
Grant type: Project Grant
Duration: 60 months
Amount: £1.2 million (this project is part of a joint funding call with Stroke Association and British Heart Foundation- Alzheimer’s Society is funding £320,817 of this)

Scientific title: Rates, risks and routes to reduce vascular dementia (R4VaD)

Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

“I'm very much in favour of this proposal as it is an important area to research and is very well explained.”

“A very ambitious project, the results of which will provide a very broad base for further research. It will provide a great deal of data as well as making use of existing research results. I like the focus on patient care.”

“This large scale longitudinal study seems very valuable. I was pleased to see the sensitive involvement and consideration of both PwD and carers - for example in recognising need to avoid overload of PwD in testing and seeking views of carers on memory issues.”

What do we already know?

Memory and thinking problems can occur after strokes, even minor ones, which can result in vascular dementia. Researchers have made substantial progress in understanding dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, but there has been less research into the causes of other types of dementia, including vascular dementia. 

Although stroke and vascular dementia are closely related, they have traditionally been studied as separate processes, which may have delayed advances in our knowledge about what causes them. This study will bring together experts in both stroke and vascular dementia. 

What does this project involve?

This project aims to answer important questions about vascular dementia, and will focus on people who have experienced a stroke. 

The study will follow 2000 people who have had a stroke from around the UK. The researchers will look at the participants’ hospital records, their lifestyle factors and genes, as well as carrying out thinking and memory tests for up to two years after their stroke to monitor the changes that happen over time.

The researchers will compare people who do develop memory and thinking problems to those who don’t. This will help them to determine what factors may cause vascular dementia, as well as how we can predict and prevent it. 

Blood tests and brain scans from people who have experienced a stroke will also help the researchers find biological signals which can help us to recognise vascular dementia. This could help to make it easier to diagnose and ensure people receive the best treatment for their condition.

Identifying these signals could also help researchers decide who is most suitable for different studies. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

This project will improve our understanding of memory problems following a stroke, and of vascular dementia. This should help to make future clinical trials faster and cheaper to run, because this research will have identified suitable individuals for treatments. 

The researchers hope that this will mean that future funding for vascular dementia research will produce more ‘positive’ studies that change the way vascular dementia is diagnosed and treated. 

The results of this study could also be used to offer psychological follow-up and support to those at risk of vascular dementia following a stroke. This will help clinicians offer the best care to individual patients, and will help policy-makers to plan future healthcare services.