Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s Australia

Edie Mayhew and Anne Tudors “Bigger Hearts” Campaign story

In our continuing series of daily #RememberMe stories  for World Alzheimer’s Month 2016 #WAM2016, we share DAI member Edie Mayhew and her partner Anne Tudors “Bigger Hearts” Campaign story. It is an exciting project happening in their local community, full of love, inclusion and a while of community commitment to improving the lives of everyone.

Thank you Edie and Anne, for sharing your story with us here…

Edie Mayhew presents at the "Bigger Hearts" campaign launch
Edie Mayhew presents at the “Bigger Hearts” campaign launch

“Anne and I would like to share our “Bigger Hearts” Campaign with DAI members.

It was launched in our home town, Ballarat on 30th August, 2016. The project partner’s include, Dr Catherine Barrett of @celebrateaging, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic and Ballarat, Ballarat City Council, Carer’s Respite and Neighborhood House, Ballarat North  (where our YOD weekly art classes take place). The major sponsor for the project is Australian Unity (our Consumer Directed Package provider) who will cover amongst other things, the cost of a project film.

The title of the project comes from a conversation Anne and I were having some time after the ADI Perth Conference. Anne was talking about how much our lives had changed since my diagnosis and that dementia had been quite transformational in many ways. She talked about the experiences we’ve had and the amazing people we’ve met. When she eventually drew breath, I said “Our Hearts are Bigger”. Anne was stuck for words!!! Since then we’ve distributed hearts to those present at all my presentations.Those in the “Quiet Room” received a heart in Budapest so they’ve travelled to many parts of the world. We moved from recognising dementia making our hearts bigger to inviting others, particularly dementia care workers, to engage their hearts in what they do so that their hearts would also be bigger.

Now we’re asking the Ballarat community to open their hearts to be more dementia aware and dementia friendly. I said we were a sub-culture wanting to be mainstream, not stigmatised, ignored or hidden away. I said we had work to do about increasing awareness and knowledge of dementia in our city, but we couldn’t do it without their support and assistance.

We were delighted the Mayor (who launched the campaign) and Deputy Mayor were present as well as a strong representation of locals. Janet Dore, a local with much corporate experience was MC and we’re delighted she will chair the Dementia Alliance to be formed at the end of October. Janet and I played cricket together in our 20’s!

We have three thousand postcards and five hundred posters distributed strategically throughout the city asking people to write down on heart shaped cards, what they think dementia is and how they suggest Ballarat could be more dementia. The responses will be used to inform the Dementia Alliance. We’ve also distributed lots of badges. A local hotel is having their staff wear the badges for the month of September. They were very keen to hear ideas about situations that arise at the bar at times.

Further activities include an event where people with dementia are paired with someone who wants to know more (a story catcher), to have a conversation about what the person living with dementia wants them to know and understand. We’re anticipating this to be powerful indeed and parts will be filmed. Ballarat City Council is also putting a group of staff though a dementia awareness experience. There is an event at a secondary school and primary school and another with Australian Unity.

An important part of the project is a weekly meeting at The Turret cafe for project partners and anyone else who may be interested to come along to chat, have a coffee, return or take more postcards, give feedback and so on. We’ve discovered a nurse engaged in a dementia research project through the process. The final event at the end of October will be an overview of the campaign, showing the film and signing people up for the Dementia Alliance and Bigger Hearts Club (similar to DAGs).

Something which has shocked and disappointed us during the planning process is the realisation that many local people with dementia, supposedly 1758 in Ballarat at the moment, are reluctant to participate in dementia awareness raising community events.

We’re still working our way through this reality. Some explanations: diagnosis is clearly not happening early enough; a collusion of silence and avoidance exists around people who have dementia, (we were shocked to learn that many people are not told by professionals and family that they have dementia); people with dementia have internalised societal views of helplessness, hopelessness and uselessness and alienate themselves from an active and satisfying community life because they feel shame. We were told time and time again, “They’re not ready yet”.

The experience of many of us with dementia is that socialisation and broad participation enhances wellbeing. There are so many DAI members living a satisfying and meaningful life as you all know. The challenge we face now is to first get PLWD to join others in a similar position in a dementia friendly cafe or pub. We do have some support in this. More than thirty community partners have signed up to Bigger Hearts.

At the moment we’re planning ways to break down some of these cultural barriers that have existed here for generations. It’s just going to take time and we need patience and clever ideas. That’s where Catherine Barrett comes in.

DAI member, Edie Mayhew, Dr Catherine Barrett & Anne Tudor
DAI memEdie Mayhew, Dr Catherine Barrett & Anne Tudor

Before the launch ended, Gorgi Coghlan, a children’s choir and musicians sang and played, “I will remember You, Will You Remember Me”. It was really beautiful and so special.

Follow us at Celebrate ageing: Bigger Hearts

Hope you’ve not experiencing September exhaustion.”

Warm wishes from Edie & Anne.”

Webinar: The Dementia Friendly Kiama Community Pilot Project

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 10.32.24 AM

Your next online Webinar “A Meeting of The Minds”, is being presented by Nick Guggisberg and DAI member Dennis Frost, “The Dementia Friendly Kiama Community Pilot Project”

July 27, 2016 – 1.30 PM (PDT – San Francisco) USA
July 28, 2016 – 6.30 AM Sydney (AEST)  AUSTRALIA

Please note: we have set up this event based on the time zone in Australia, to ensure the registration system does not close ahead of the Webinar – but  – it is being held on July 27 in the USA/UK/EU and July 28 in Australia/NZ/Japan.

Register here…

Many people with dementia now see the Kiama DFC Pilot Project as the GOLD STANDARD of any Dementia Friendly Community project or initiative in the world. Please join us to find out why. 
Last month, Nick Guggisberg and Melissa Andrews, on behalf of the project, received a National Local Government Innovation Award in the Access and Inclusion category. 
Congratulations to them, and to the full team behind the pilot project, as well as the members of the Southern Dementia Advisory Group (alias, the Kiama DAG’s), led by Dennis Frost.

About the Webinar session: This Project is a partnership between Kiama Council, The University of Wollongong (UOW), Alzheimer’s Australia and the Kiama Community. The project uses an Action Research model to track progress, and works within a community development framework.

Basic Structure of the Project

  • Kiama Dementia Alliance – individuals, service & peak organisations, and people with dementia.
  • Dementia Advisory Group – People with Dementia (PWD) and their carers/supporters/partners, who advise on and oversee the whole project including participating in all education sessions.

Having an active Dementia Advisory Group from the outset makes this project unique.

Action Plan includes:

  • Training volunteers to support PWD to participate in community activities,
  • Information sessions, public lectures and education to raise awareness,
  • Making the local environment more accessible

Project Objectives:

  • Increased community awareness and understanding of dementia
  • Broadening of opportunities for social participation for PWD
  • Dementia-friendly organisations & businesses
  • Improvements to the physical environment through using the UOW Environmental Audit Tool
  • Mapping of Dementia-friendly organisations and places

Already there is anecdotal evidence of substantial progress towards these objectives.

Initial research surveys conducted at the start of the project will be repeated in 2016 to measure change in the Dementia-friendliness of Kiama.

About Nick: Nick spent the first half of his adult life experiencing broader Australia, playing and teaching music throughout the whole continent while largely based in Alice Springs.  Nick drew on his broad range of life experiences during his studies to hone and shape these experiences and insights into skills and knowledge that he could apply professionally as a Social Worker. Since graduating with a Social Work degree, Nick has largely worked in the Community Development field working with Social Housing Tenants, managing a Youth Service, managing a Foster Care program, and currently works as the Manager Community & Cultural Development for Kiama Municipal Council. It is in his role at council that Nick oversees the council’s involvement in the Dementia Friendly Kiama Project. As a Social Worker, social justice is at the heart of everything Nick turns his attention to, so when the opportunity to facilitate Kiama Council joining the partnership with Wollongong University and Alzheimer’s Australia to pilot dementia-friendly strategies in Kiama, Nick jumped at the opportunity.

About Dennis: Dennis was diagnosed with younger onset Front-Temporal Dementia 3 years ago at age 59. Prior to that worked part time as a teacher in TAFE and part time as IT support engineer in TAFE as well as running his own  IT support business for 25 years. Since diagnosis Dennis has been working tirelessly to promote awareness of Dementia, to advocate for people with Dementia and to break down social stigmas associated with dementia. Dennis is chairman of the Dementia Friendly Kiama Project’s Dementia Advisory Group (and some might say a real DAG). In April 2016 Dennis will travel to Budapest, Hungary to share the successes of the Dementia Friendly Kiama Project  to the 31st International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International.

Wednesday July 27, 2016 (USA/CA/EU/UK):

Start times:

  • 1.30 p.m. Pacific Time (San Francisco);
  • 2.30 p.m. Mountain Time (Denver);
  • 3.30 pm Central Time (Chicago; Des Moines)
  • 4.30 p.m. Eastern Time (Washington DC);
  • 1.30 p.m. Vancouver, Canada;
  • 10.30 a.m. in Honolulu, Hawaii;
  • 9.30 p.m. in the UK;
  • 10.30 p.m. in Paris and Budapest

Thursday July 28, 2016 (AU/NZ/JAPAN)

Start times:

  • 6.30 a.m. in Brisbane; Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne;
  • 4.30 a.m. in Perth;
  • 6.00 a.m. in Adelaide;
  • 8.30 a.m. in Auckland, New Zealand;
  • 5.30 a.m. in Tokyo, Japan

The WEBINAR will run for 1.5 hours.

To check the time in your city, if not listed above, please open the link here: 


You will receive an email confirmation that contains login details and instructions on how to join the online Webinar. 

Please note: Attending our events supports everyone connected to dementia, whether the person diagnosed, our care partners, or the professionals and research community who work to support us and improve our lives.

We charge a minimal fee of $45 USD for anyone who is employed. Most will be able to claim the cost of the tickets as a tax deduction.

Students are charged $15 USD – please send proof of your student ID to [email protected]

We have to rely on an HONOUR registration system, and trust that if you are employed, you will not instead register as an unemployed family supporter (carer).

The modest fee for this webinar supports your education and our community, and also supports our work, which directly enables people with dementia to more proactively and positively support themselves.

Register here…


If you need a certificate of attendance, please email us at [email protected]

The Webinar is FREE for people with dementia and unemployed family carers.

Your donations are always appreciated and do make a difference:

  • $7.00 USD covers the average cost of one of our monthly bank fees
  • $50.00 USD covers the average of the cost of our monthly Zoom subscription fee
  • $100.00 USD covers the average monthly cost of the MailChimp subscription
  • $300.00 USD covers the current cost of 3 months of website management fees

Option: Our nonprofit partner, PayPal charges us a transaction fee to cover fees and other processing costs, to securely process your donation. Please consider adding an additional small amount to your donation so 100% of your donation amount goes to Dementia Alliance International. Donations can be made here

Dementia-friendly street party #DAM2015

For Day 19 of World Alzheimer’s Month 2015, or as we have been calling it Dementia Awareness Month 2015, #DAM2015, we wanted to share the fabulous idea of a dementia friendly street party, from one of our members Edie and her partner Anne based in Victoria, Australia.

Image source: Screen shot from http://www.dementiadaily.org.au/novel-idea-dementia-friendly-street-party-to-de-stigmatise-condition/#.VfpXvZfFGjY.facebook
Image source: Screen shot from http://www.dementiadaily.org.au/novel-idea-dementia-friendly-street-party-to-de-stigmatise-condition/#.VfpXvZfFGjY.facebook

The article, Novel idea – dementia-friendly street party to de-stigmatise condition was posted on Dementia Daily, an Alzheimer’s Australia online newsletter.

“Edie and Anne are a couple from Victoria. Edie is living with younger onset dementia. Edie and Anne are calling for the “more informed” among us to take action and assist in spreading helpful and positive messages to de-stigmatise dementia and create more dementia-friendly communities.

And what better way to celebrate than with a big dementia-friendly street party? #ItStartsWithYou

Read the full article here…

Let’s all think about organising a dementia friendly street party soon, or at least as part of our Christmas celebrations?


Dementia Awareness Week UK Day 1

Slide5Research wrap #5: Reviews from ADI2015

By Dr Ian McDonald, Alzheimer’s Australia Science Communicator

Thank you Ian.

This week, we are publishing a blog each day as part of  Dementia Awareness Week in the UK, and with permission, I am commencing the series with three blogs written by Dr Ian McDonald, the Science Communicator at Alzheimer’s Australia, who usually write a monthly Research Wrap up for us. This will save him some work this month!

Scotland has a DAW scheduled in June, so we may find the energy to publish a blog e very day of that week too… please, if you have any articles you would like to write and have shared here, send them in.

I know these are a little delayed as it is almost a month since ADI2015 in Perth, but they are an interesting wrap of the conference. I have included an excerpt from each blog, but please do follow the links to the full articles. The next few days we will also be featuring more of the presentations by members, and others from ADI2015 in Perth, as they are uploaded to our YouTube Channel.

April 16 – Highlights from ADI2015: Developments Risk Reduction Diagnosis and treatment

Opening of ADI2015 Image source: Kate Swaffer
Opening of ADI2015
Image source: Kate Swaffer

Dr Richard Walley gave the official welcome to country on behalf of the Nyoongar people and said to attendees in his traditional language. Follow the link for the full blog.

I want to give presenters an ability to articulate messages in a clear manner and those who receive the message ability to pass it on and share,” said Dr Walley who also passed on a message stick to the conference which was accepted by two attendees.

April 17 – Highlights from ADI2015: Local and International Action against Dementia

Marc Wortman, the Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Disease International spoke about their current strategic plans now and into the future, telling attendees. Follow the link above for the full blog.

“Dementia is a societal problem and we need to provide care today while we look for the cure tomorrow,” Marc Wortman.

April 18 – Highlights from ADI2015: Engaging, Supporting and Including people living with dementia

The last day of the conference saw sessions focusing on new research into Younger Onset Dementia (YOD) as well as engaging people living with dementia and improving their quality of life. Today’s presentations had a focus on how society can best support and include people with dementia in everyday life.

Once again the discussion was led by those who are living with, caring for and/or working with those with dementia. Follow the link above for the full blog.

Editor: Kate Swaffer
Copyright 2015 Dementia Alliance International

Dementia Research Wrap Up #4

Slide4Our latest Dementia Alliance International Dementia Research Wrap Up #4  for April 2015, generously provided and written by Dr Ian McDonald.

Thank you Ian.

Over the past few weeks there have been a few advances in relation to treating the pathological signs of dementia (in the brain). This means trying to get rid of those toxic proteins which cause brain cells to die and memory loss and other dementia related symptoms to occur. While this news is always exciting to hear, most of this research being reported on is in its earliest stages and some of the trials are yet to move from animal testing. So while small steps are being made, a long road is still ahead. I’ll give you a brief overview of three of these new trials recently reported on.

Research out of Australia has shown that an ultrasound scanning technique can reduce and remove amyloid beta plaques from the brains of MICE with Alzheimer’s disease. The results, published in the Journal Science Translational Medicine, showed that applying the ultrasound technique on mice with Alzheimer’s disease removed amyloid beta plaques from the brain, and in some cases, cleared the plaques completely. Treated mice were also found to perform better on a variety of memory tests, indicating that it may also reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another lot of Australian research has provided evidence towards an infrared light therapy being able to treat Alzheimer’s disease. In this mouse study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s research and therapy, daily infrared light therapy was able remove and reduce the levels of toxic proteins and plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

So while both of these approaches have been able to break up the plaques which are considered responsible for Alzheimer’s disease onset – so far the results have only been seen in mice. The skulls of mice are much thinner than those of humans and thus the approach would need considerable modifications before clinical trials can be undertaken in humans. We’ll certainly keep posted to see how this research progresses.

Moving along a bit further, results were also recently released by a pharmaceutical company called Biogen showing that a drug called Aducanumab has had promising results as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment during a Phase 1b clinical trial.

So what is a Phase 1b study? They are intended to demonstrate ‘proof of concept’ and confirm a hypothesis, while also evaluating the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of the experimental treatment. If the results are promising, the researchers will then move into larger trials and longer term trials, known as Phase 2 and 3.

In this their analysis of the results, the researchers found that this drug was able to reduce amyloid plaque levels, and in turn slow down cognitive decline in a small number of people with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. So with these results, the researchers will now move into larger and longer term phase 2 and 3 trials and assess further if any side effects might occur as a result of taking this treatment.

So while it can always be exciting to hear about an Alzheimer’s disease breakthrough it is important to delve further into the results and see exactly what they say. I would also recommend anyone wanting to participate in a research clinical trial to have a read of some information on our website around what’s involved when participating in a research trial – http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/whats-involved-participating

To read about these studies in full have a look through our blog here – http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/blog

Dementia Research Wrap Up #3

Slide3Our latest Dementia Research Wrap Up covering updates from February 2015, by Dr Ian McDonald, the Science Communicator for Alzheimer’s Australia. Thank you Ian.

I recently spoke with Australian researchers at the Florey Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience who are working on a potential blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. It might seem strange that researchers are focusing on developing diagnostic tools for dementia without any potential disease modifying therapies on the horizon, but after chatting with the researchers from Florey, they certainly put this research into some perspective.

Dr Blaine Roberts is a blood protein chemist, which means he spends his days looking for markers in the blood associated with disease pathology. He explained the point of his research quite simply by saying:

“With Alzheimer’s disease we don’t have that cholesterol test yet or that blood pressure test yet, and that is really what we are trying to get.”

He went on to say that the point of a blood test wouldn’t be to tell someone they have Alzheimer’s disease, as the point of a cholesterol test isn’t to tell you that you have cardiovascular [heart] disease. An Alzheimer’s blood test would be a screening tool which could be used by doctors to refer you on to a neuropsychologist (if required) and also offer advice on how to potentially change your lifestyle to reduce your risk of dementia and if this eventuates, to offer therapeutic strategies which may be able to minimise the damage that Alzheimer’s disease pathology can do to the brain.

I found this an interesting discussion and you can listen to it in full podcast at http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/listen (Episode 26).

What about a treatment though? Are we getting any closer? Well while it is all still very preliminary, there was some interesting research out of the UK recently which noted that a compound called ‘Brichos’, can be effective at inhibiting the mechanisms which trigger the aggregation of the amyloid beta proteins, a major hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. However, while this compound has been shown to prevent the accumulation of amyloid beta proteins, there is no evidence that it can remove or break down the amyloid beta plaques once developed. At this point in time, further rigour is required to develop techniques to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia at an earlier stage.

So what is Brichos? It is part of a set of compounds known as ‘chaperone’ proteins, which evolve to help other proteins fold or unfold to prevent protein aggregation.

According to the Cambridge University Press Release:

“Brichos sticks to threads made up of malfunctioning proteins, called amyloid fibrils, which are the hallmark of the [Alzheimer’s] disease. By doing so, it stops these threads from coming into contact with other proteins, thereby helping to avoid the formation of highly toxic clusters that enable the condition to proliferate in the brain.”

I’ll keep you posted about any further research in this area. To finish off this month’s research wrap up, I want to highlight another great study out of the USA which is really putting its own twist on the way we currently look at dementia research. The study known as ‘SuperAgers’ aims to better understand and identify factors that contribute to SuperAging – the maintenance of cognitive functioning in older age. To qualify as a SuperAger, participants had to score a certain level on a variety of mental tests, undertake periodic brain scans and medical tests, and agree to donate their brains after death. Over 400 people registered for the study, with only 35 meeting the requirements to be considered a SuperAger. This study has been ongoing since 2007.

So what is special about SuperAgers? The latest results, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, gave us some more insight. Using MRI brain imaging techniques, the researchers compared 31 SuperAger brains to 21 brains of a similar age and 18 brains aged in their 50s and 60s. As part of the trial, post-mortem analysis of five of the ‘SuperAger’ brains was also conducted. Combining all the data, results revealed that ‘SuperAger’ brains had a significantly thicker region of the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain indirectly related to memory through its influence on related functions such as cognitive control, executive function, conflict resolution, motivation and perseverance. It was also noted that ‘SuperAger’ brains had significantly fewer neurofibrillary tangles (twisted fibres consisting of the Tau protein which cause brain cell death) and a large supply of a specific brain cell called ‘von Economo’, which are linked to higher social intelligence.

It is the hope that the ‘SuperAgers’ study will create a better understanding around why some people may not get dementia in later life and thus the researchers can develop a set of recommendations to advise the public on how to reduce your risk of dementia. The ‘SuperAgers’ study is still ongoing and I’ll keep you posted about further results. To find out more about the latest dementia research you can follow the Dementia News blog at http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/blog and sign up via http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/dementia-news

Author: Dr Ian McDonald

Research wrap-up #2

Slide2Dementia Research Wrap Up – February 2015

Author:  Dr Ian McDonald, Science Communicator, Alzheimer’s Australia

Since my last wrap up in December a lot of new research has been making its way into scientific publications and also the mainstream media. In this short wrap up I thought I’d focus on a few of the studies I found interesting but as always if you want to delve more into it, you can visit the Dementia News blog at http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/blog which is updated regularly.

New research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation has revealed that fully functioning microglia can prevent neurodegeneration in mice, moving researchers one step closer to figuring out how to delay or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease onset. Next question – what are microglia? Well microglia are specific types of supportive brain cells that constitute about 10-15% of total brain cells. They assist in maintaining normal brain function and help stave off neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. When microglia lose their ability to function, amyloid beta proteins can build up in the brain, inducing toxic inflammation which may lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore it is suggested that people with Alzheimer’s disease have a steady decline in the normal functioning of microglia cells.

It is known that microglia function well in young people but tend to function less effectively as people age. This degeneration is predominately due to a protein that triggers inflammation, known as EP2. In this most recent mouse study, the researchers found that blocking the action of the EP2 protein restored the ability of microglia to do their job. More specifically, they found that blocking the EP2 protein reduced brain inflammation and cleared toxic markers which cause cell death, as well as prevented cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s-afflicted mice.

I also came across another interesting study published in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease which was looking at dementia within twins. To be eligible for the study, one twin had to have been diagnosed with a form of cognitive impairment or dementia and the other not. One of the research questions they were looking at was whether playing a musical instrument in later life was a protective factor against dementia, and it turns out that is just might be. Of the 157 sets of twins (i.e. 314 individuals) the researchers had in the study, 31 individuals identified that they played a musical instrument. When they delved further into these 31 musicians, 27 were found to be cognitively healthy, while four had dementia. So when the researchers analysed this specific group of twins (controlling for gender, education, and physical activity) they found that those participants who played an instrument in older adulthood had a 64% lower likelihood of developing a cognitive impairment or dementia. This result certainly provides more evidence that learning a new hobby (such as a musical instrument) may be able to stimulate your brain and reduce your risk of dementia. Plus it is well known that music can also be used to help improve the quality of life and behaviour for those who are living with dementia.

Another study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine stated that ‘anticholingeric medications’ may increase your risk of dementia. Anticholinergic meds include things like hay fever tablets, sleeping pills, asthma drugs and anti-depressants and they are designed to block a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is involved in transmitting information between nerve cells. In this study, the researchers analysed the medical records of 3,434 participants (65 years or older and all without dementia at the beginning of the study). Over a ten year follow up period, 797 participants (23 percent) developed a form of dementia, and those who were taking high doses of prescription anticholinergic medications for more than three years were at a greater risk compared to those who were not taking these types of medications. It is important to stress that the current results do not suggest that these medications cause dementia, nor does it suggest that a specific type of anticholinergic medication is linked to a higher risk. More research is required to answer these questions. The researchers also stress that these results do not suggest that people who are taking either over the counter or prescription anticholinergic medications should cease to do and if concerned, suggest talking to your general practitioner, pharmacist or a health professional about the risks and benefits of the medications, particularly if alternative medications may be available.

Thanks for reading the February 2015 Dementia Research Wrap Up.

Thank you for writing it for DAI Dr McDonald, and at a generous pro bono rate.


Research wrap-up #1

Slide1Late last year I asked a favour of a younger colleague and now friend, Dr Ian McDonald if he would consider writing a monthly blog with a precis of the latest in research for our Dementia Alliance International blog.

Luckily for DAI, he has not only agreed to do this for us, but is donating his time and expertise to our organisation.

Dr McDonald works for Alzheimer’s Australia based in the national office in Canberra, write his own science blog, and also hase a radio program. Thank you Ian, and our very sincere appreciation for your assistance and considerable generosity and research expertise.

January 1st 2015: dementia research wrap-up

By: Dr Ian McDonald, Science Communicator, Alzheimer’s Australia

Hi all, Kate Swaffer asked me to write a regular column for the Dementia Alliance International blog which gives a short monthly wrap-up of what is happening in the dementia research sector. So here is my first edition for January 2015 – Enjoy!

A recent report released by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee suggests that drinking 2-3 cups of coffee each day can reduce your risk of dementia by up to 20%. While this research attracted a considerable amount of media attention, evidence supporting this claim isn’t conclusive. In fact, the last sentence of the report reads:

“Epidemiological studies have suggested that there may be an association between moderate coffee consumption and a reduced risk of developed Alzheimer’s, however further research is required to fully understand the nature of this relationship.”

So I’ll leave that one with you to ponder. While consumption of coffee itself is unlikely to do harm, per se, it is important to note that there is also a growing body of evidence which highlights the risks of dementia associated with coffee drinking, including high sugar intake and lack of sleep.

Another intriguing study has suggested that ‘short people’ have a higher risk of dementia over ‘tall people’. This interesting claim was predominately based on the fact that shorter people have a lower production of growth hormones, which are believed to play an important role in brain function. Another study has suggested that adult asthma is linked to dementia onset. This claim was related to a condition known as ‘chronic hypoxia’ (where key organs are deprived of oxygen). The researchers suggest that those people with chronic hypoxia, can have abnormal synthesis of neurotransmitters, brain inflammation and blood-brain barrier dysfunction, resulting in brain cells not functioning properly

Finally to keep on the theme of dementia risk reduction, an Australian review article recently looked at whether computerised brain-training can decrease your risk of dementia and improve brain function. After reviewing 51 trials that involved over 5000 participants, they concluded that ‘computerised brain-training’ is only modestly effective at improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults. Australian researchers are now currently conducting more research in this area.

I look forward to digesting the latest dementia research with you, and encourage anyone who might be interested in finding out more to sign up to receive updates of my regular blog at http://www.dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/dementia-news and/or read the articles in full.

Dr lan McDonald is the Research Communications and Engagement Coordinator for Alzheimer’s Australia. One of his major roles includes writing and sourcing content for a fortnightly newsletter called ‘Dementia News’ which sets out to explain and discuss the latest dementia research. He also produces a fortnightly podcast talking with researchers and community supporters in the field of dementia. His blog and podcast can be found at www.dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au. Another aspect of his role is to promote the work of the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation, which is the research arm of Alzheimer’s Australia and provides support and grants to early career researchers in the field of dementia.

 Prior to working for Alzheimer’s Australia, Dr McDonald has worked at the CSIRO and the Australian National University in administration, communication and education roles. In 2012, he was awarded a PhD through the University of Queensland in the field of reproductive immunology. Dr McDonald is also a prominent member of the Australian Science Communicators, being on both national and local committees and also presents on a science show most Sunday mornings called Fuzzy Logic

Editor: Kate Swaffer
Copyright: Dementia Alliance International and Dr Ian McDonald 2015