PREVENT Dementia: Understanding changes in the brain through mid-life

Research project: Supporting the continuation of the PREVENT dementia platform.

Lead Investigator: Professor Craig W Ritchie

  • Institution: University of Edinburgh
  • Grant type: Project
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Amount: £378,738.72

Why did we fund this research?

Comments from our Research Network volunteers:

This is well worth our funding considering the massive impact it could have on many people.

Project summary

Current treatments for dementia focus on treating the condition after the first symptoms emerge. This project will support the continuation of PREVENT dementia programme which aims to identify the very earliest signs of dementia in the brain during mid-life.

They will use this information to help them to predict dementia and ultimately find ways to maintain brain health. 

The background 

In neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, changes in the brain develop over many years and lead to memory and thinking problems as well as difficulties with everyday tasks. 

Whilst various clinical trials have been carried out aiming to manage the symptoms of dementia and prevent the condition from progressing, so far no drugs have been successful been able to slow the progression of the disease. 

Today most potential new drug treatments are tested once the symptoms of dementia appear. However researchers believe changes take place in the brain many years before any symptoms begin. So it’s possible these treatments are being tested too late and will have little effect on slowing down the progression of the disease.

What does this project involve?

This project is a continuation of a programme which started in 2014. ‘PREVENT Dementia’ aims to change the focus of dementia research. The researchers have been studying 700 people in mid-life, aged 40-64, before any symptoms of dementia appear. 

The team have followed the group for 3 years so far and this funding will allow them to continue to follow these individuals for another 2 years. Participants are being asked to complete a number of clinical and cognitive assessments and are providing biological samples and undergoing a brain scan.

The main objective of the research is to identify the earliest changes associated with dementia by studying the brains for this large group of people during midlife decades before any symptoms appear. 

This will help the research team to develop drugs that will allow them to intervene at an early stage and potentially alter the course of the disease and help to maintain brain health.

How will this project help people with dementia?

By focusing on this population the researchers hope to change the way we understand and treat dementia by preventing or at least delaying the onset of symptoms. This project will help to identify the earliest biological changes seen in the brains of people with dementia.

The research team hope this will lead to the development of drugs which could slow down or even stop the progression of the disease. 

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