Fellowship exchange: Collaborating research to help reduce dementia risk

Following a successful collaboration with two groups in the UK, Kay Deckers' research may help monitor and reduce the risk of dementia for people in the UK. 

  1. Alzheimer's Society / Alzheimer Nederland knowledge exchange fellowships
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  3. Fellowship exchange: Sharing expertise in dementia research

Working together

University College London (UCL), University of Cambridge and Maastricht University 

Kay Deckers is a researcher from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. 

Prior to the Exchange Programme, Kay’s research in the Netherlands included a new index for assessing brain health that combines lifestyle and health scores, called the ‘LIfestyle for BRAin health’ (LIBRA) score. From this score, the potential for reducing dementia risk can be calculated.

Kay Deckers says: 

‘What makes this approach so interesting, and new, is that we did not include non-modifiable risk factors like age, gender or genes. This way, we find a brain health score based on lifestyle factors people may actually be able to change for the better.'

The score has already been validated in several population and clinical data sets and published with widespread interest for improving public health outcomes.

Successes so far 

Kay’s post doc project now includes validating the LIBRA score in a number of independent cohorts, including in the UK in 2016.

Kay Deckers says:

‘The Exchange Fellowship has allowed me to tap in to two rich data sets with the support of the world class research teams in Cambridge and UCL.

We’ve had some challenges to overcome along the way in adapting our modelling programme to the new data sets, but we have made great progress in validating this score in the UK.'

Continuing their work

Kay intends to continue the collaboration with Professor Carol Brayne and Dr Jane Fleming, at the University of Cambridge, and Professor Andrew Steptoe and Dr Dorina Cadar, at UCL, to replicate the success of his work in other data sets. 

Following the collaboration with UCL and University of Cambridge, Kay is working together with Public Health England to investigate the possibility of implementing the LIBRA score in UK dementia prevention policy. 

Kay Deckers says:

‘It’s amazing to see this research go towards real Public Health outcomes! I’m part of a steering committee to take this forward and I hope we can make a real difference to people in the UK by helping people understand and reduce their risk of developing dementia.'

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