Tag Archives: Author: Dr Ian McDonald

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

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.