Scientists will be taking steps to try to identify people more at risk of developing dementia in later life.
Researchers from Cardiff, Bristol and Oxford University will study if healthy adults with APOE-e4, a gene variant associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, show altered brain activity patterns and connectivity in brain circuits used for spatial navigation and memory.
Professor Kim Graham, from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, said:
‘Understanding how risk factors for dementia lead to later life memory loss is critical to developing new therapies and preventative approaches for dementia.
‘By collaborating with Bristol and Oxford Universities, and using new state-of-the-art neuroimaging in a unique birth cohort, we hope to understand the ways in which brain activity and structure is influenced by APOE-e4.
‘This information will generate sensitive cognitive tests and markers of brain function able to identify individuals at increased risk for dementia many years prior to the onset of memory difficulties.’
The grant of £1.75 million is being awarded by the Medical Research Council in the hopes that the research will lead to the development of drugs that could delay the onset of dementia by five years, effectively halving the cost of dementia to the UK economy (£24 billion each year).
Using powerful new scanners recently installed at Cardiff University’s Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) the researchers are able to assess brain structure and function in unprecedented levels of detail.
Study participants will be taken from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which is comprised of more than 14,000 families in the Bristol area.
Lyn Molloy, executive director at ALSPAC said:
‘This remarkable, intensely studied group of study participants are now entering their mid-twenties and this study will provide new insights into how brain changes at this age might be inked to increased dementia in later life.’