Knowledge Exchange Fellowships

The Knowledge Exchange Fellowships are a new set of grants from Alzheimer's Society that aim to enable collaboration between researchers in different countries. The grantholders will work in partnership with Alzheimer Nederland and dementia researchers in the Netherlands. Researchers in both the UK and the Netherlands will be able to benefit from each other's expertise and data. 

We have funded four projects, investigating different key areas in the cause, care, cure and prevention of dementia. 

Understanding how community organisations coordinate to help people with dementia

UK Lead Investigator: Dr Neil Chadborn
UK Institution: University of Nottingham

Partner Investigator: Dr Marjolein van der Marck
Partner Institution: Radboud University

Scientific Title: Negotiating better community support for people living with dementia

A person living with dementia will tend to see a lot of different health services because of their complex needs. Many of these services will also be community based. This study will look at how organisations based in the same community coordinate with each other, and how important coordination might be.

The researchers on this project will speak to people living with dementia and their carers across geographical locations about how dementia services vary. They will also speak to staff and volunteers of these organisations about how well organisations work together. They plan to first visit dementia support organisations in the UK, and to move on to the Netherlands later in the year, so that they can compare services in the two countries.

The researchers aim to produce a set of recommendations about how services within a community can work together and with people living with dementia. This could help people get the best out of the services available to them and improve dementia support access, promoting a community approach.

Understanding the mechanisms behind mild cognitive impairment

UK Lead Investigator: Dr Javier Escudero Rodriguez
UK Institution: University of Edinburgh

Partner Investigator: Prof. Cornelis Jan Stam
Partner Institution: Vanderbilt University Medical Centre

Scientific Title: New objective methods to assess modularity in EEG functional networks during short-term  memory binding in mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment is the name given to memory problems that aren't severe enough to be classed as dementia. Some cases of mild cognitive impairment will progress to dementia. Understanding the mechanisms that cause mild cognitive impairment in people may be useful in diagnosing and monitoring the earliest stages of dementia.  

This research will make use of overlapping and complementary expertise from the labs in Edinburgh and in the Netherlands and aims to look into the mechanisms behind mild cognitive impairment. The researchers plan to build on a previous finding that a process called short term memory binding is affected by mild cognitive impairment. Short term memory binding is the process through which the brain associates different details together (for example, faces and names) for short term memory. 

The researchers plan to re-analyse the data recently collected from another study. The study used a technique called EEG (electroencephalogram), which detects tiny electrical current in the brain through wires touching the scalp. In this study, people with and without mild cognitive impairment were given visual memory tasks to do whilst electroencephalogram (EEG) readings were taken. EEG would make a good tool for diagnosing people because it is easy to use, cheap, and very non-invasive. 

The team thinks the cause of short term memory binding impairment that may be to do with the way that different parts of the brain communicate with each other. Using data from this EEG study, the researchers hope to show how communications between parts of the brain have changed in people with mild cognitive impairment.

This study may indicate another avenue for early diagnostics as well as illuminating an early process that occurs in the brains of people with dementia.

How improving wellbeing can help people to live well with dementia

UK Lead Investigator: Dr Gill Windle
UK Institution: Bangor University

Partner Investigator: Prof Rose-Marie Droës
Partner Institution: Vanderbilt University Medical Centre

Scientific Title: Enhancing resilience and quality of life through arts and science research

People living with dementia may experience feelings of unhappiness and isolation. This can be exacerbated when the person is also affected by other long-term illnesses.

This project aims to bring together and build on three sets of data. Two of these studies - one based in Wales, another in the Netherlands - are investigating health and wellbeing in older people over a long period of time. Comparing these two datasets will improve knowledge on how factors that improve wellbeing can affect thinking and memory over time. 

The third study is a recent project called 'Dementia and Imagination'. This project used community art events to improve quality of life and wellbeing for people with dementia across England and Wales. Dr Windle and colleagues will re-analyse the data collected from this study to look at how it did or did not affect participants. They plan to assess whether 'Dementia and Imagination' activities can help people to live well with dementia and improve their quality of life. They will be particularly looking at resilience, which means someone's ability to maintain a sense of wellbeing even when they are affected by dementia or other chronic illnesses.

The researchers will combine their existing data and expertise to investigate whether measuring resilience may be a new way to try to gauge someone's wellbeing, as it has not been studied much before. In addition, it may indicate how well the Dementia and Imagination project is working and inform care and support strategies. This information will help build a similar programme for the Netherlands.

Understanding problems with storing memories in early stage Alzheimer's disease

UK Lead Investigator: Dr Iris Oren
UK Institution: University of Edinburgh

Partner Investigator: Dr Francesco Battaglia
Partner Institution: Radboud University

Scientific Title: Elucidating neuronal mechanisms underlying memory deficits in Alzheimer's disease using high density single unit recordings

The earliest memory changes in Alzheimer's disease can be subtle and hard to detect. These changes affect individual cells in particular areas of the brain, which may not be functioning as they should be. 

The researchers are particularly interested in studying problems with storing memories in early stages of Alzheimer's disease. They will use mice that show symptoms of Alzheimer's to understand the changes that happen to brain cells involved with memory storage.

The results will be used to develop computer models of disease that can be related back to what is happening in the brain of people affected by Alzheimer's disease. They will also use this information to understand whether changes to the individual cells in Alzheimer's disease can be treated or reversed.

Dr Oren will use the partnership to learn how to use the cutting edge equipment to record the activity of individual brain cells in mice.