Trinity scientists awarded funding for brain health and dementia research projects

Posted on: 06 December 2018

Four Trinity researchers are among 21 pilot projects across 10 countries awarded funding, as Global Brain Health Leaders.

Trinity scientists awarded funding for brain health and dementia research projects

Three leading organisations including the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) based at Trinity College Dublin and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Society UK have joined forces to address the growing public health crisis of dementia. They have developed a unique funding programme – The Pilot Awards for Global Brain Health Leaders – to support emerging leaders in brain health and dementia.

The awards will fund early research projects intended to discover prevention strategies and improve care and support for people around the world living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. They are targeted to outstanding researchers and professionals whose activities are set to have real world impact.

Twenty-one pilot projects have just been awarded, spanning ten countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Turkey, UK, and USA. The total funding awarded is almost 450,000 euros.

Four Atlantic Fellows at GBHI based in Trinity College Dublin have been awarded funds including:

  • David Loughrey who is examining the association between age related hearing loss and dementia. With one third of adults over the age of 65 estimated to have a disabling hearing loss, effective treatment of hearing loss which promotes brain health could have enormous implications for the prevalence of dementia globally.
  • Christine Fitzgerald who is studying Alzheimer’s cafes in Ireland and how effective they are as an example of a psychosocial support for people with dementia and their families, carers and health professionals.
  • Catherine Jordan whose study will help us to scientifically understand how music helps people with dementia, with the aim of creating music and memory tools and resources for carers and people with dementia.
  • Geeske Peeters who is developing dementia risk charts that clinicians can use with patients to analyse their risk factors and assess who is most at risk of dementia. Crucially, clinicians can then discuss with their patient how addressing certain risk factors can reduce the person’s risk of dementia. Geeske is developing these tools to be used in low and middle income countries where dementia prevalence is higher but these risk charts can also be applied closer to home.

There are estimated to be 50 million people in the world affected by dementia in 2018 and this number is set to rise to 152 million by 2050. In Ireland, 55,000 people have dementia and the numbers are projected to triple by 2050 unless we can develop an effective way to prevent dementia.

Co-Director of the Global Brain Health Institute based in Trinity College Dublin and chair of the Understand Together campaign, Professor Brian Lawlor said: “These pilot awards made to emerging interprofessional leaders in the field of brain health and dementia in Ireland and across the world have the potential to change the narrative for dementia. Over time, we expect that these pilots will lead to larger funded studies that will have a real impact on dementia prevention worldwide.”

Atlantic Fellow, GBHI, Catherine Jordan said: ‘One of the greatest attributes of the GBHI pilot award scheme is its openness to novel, innovative, creative, multidisciplinary brain health research. The pilot award is allowing my transition from early career research to principal investigator. It presents me with a unique opportunity to incorporate my training from my Atlantic Fellowship with my research expertise to delve further into brain health research, to work across disciplines, break boundaries, foster understanding and ultimately inform and lead change in brain health research and policy.’

With strong evidence to guide them, the pilot projects address disparities in access to treatment to improve how care is provided for vulnerable aging populations. They seek to improve dementia diagnosis, treatment, and care for people with dementia and their families. The researchers will investigate new ways of creating social change to reduce stigma and inspire optimism and dignity for elders. The projects will also develop and refine brain health policies through evidence-based advocacy and outreach and advance the field of brain health and dementia prevention.

The 2018 funded pilots also include activities related to the impact of displacement and trauma on the brain health of Syrian refugees, substance abuse and brain health, music and dementia, palliative care, hearing loss and dementia, sleep, and brain training tools.

The funding awards of over 22,000 euros each enable the awardees to test a project and then seek further funding from other sources to scale up their work.