'Meet our Researcher' - Darren Lipnicki

24 Mar 2016

CHeBA Blog: 'Meet our Researcher' - Darren Lipnicki

KATE CROSBIE and HEIDI DOUGLASS | h.douglass@unsw.edu.au

Understanding the universal and local risk factors for cognitive decline is what drives Dr Darren Lipnicki, Study Coordinator of the Cohort Studies of Memory in an International Consortium (COSMIC) at CHeBA.

“It will be very interesting to see the extent to which different ways in which people live, eat and behave influence their current and future cognitive status,” said Dr Lipnicki. 

COSMIC compares research findings from around the world to identify risk and protective factors associated with cognitive decline and dementia. These findings will have significance for everyone’s daily lives. 

“If people implement and practice changes in their daily lifestyle, ideally from as early an age as possible, we can reduce the impacts of cognitive ageing on society,” explained Dr Lipnicki.

Dr Lipnicki is encouraged by existing findings about the impact of modifiable lifestyle factors.

“There may be some fine tuning of our understanding about how physical activity and diet influence cognitive ageing, but the basics are clear and promoting lifestyle change to reflect these should be a priority.”

Dr Lipnicki explains that there isn’t a quick and effort-free fix to improving brain health, but making simple lifestyle changes are worth it.  The understanding is that looking after your brain health will contribute to a more productive and enjoyable time in later life for both the individual and their friends and families.

For Dr Lipnicki personally, this translates to running or cycling every work day, a vegetarian Mediterranean-style diet with B12 and omega-3 supplementation and doing daily crosswords.

As Dr Lipnicki explains, the benefits of lifestyle change extend beyond healthy brains. “Many of the factors influencing brain health also influence heart health and well-being more broadly. It is also important to recognise that cognitive ageing not only has effects on the individual and their family and friends, it has far broader societal and financial consequences for the community.”

“I think older individuals will become, and be seen to be, more active and engaged participants in the everyday life of others. This will be facilitated by maintaining better physical and mental health into later life, and by there being more opportunities afforded to older people. I am optimistic because the sheer size of the aged and ageing population will necessitate such changes.”

CHeBA Co-Director and Leader of COSMIC Professor Perminder Sachdev said that Dr Lipnicki’s skill-set is an invaluable resource for the success of COSMIC. “Darren has a great mind for detail which, coupled with his capacity to work for hours undisturbed to bring together diverse data sets, is helping COSMIC to realise its goals.”

Dr Lipnicki has been a researcher with CHeBA since 2010. He holds a Bachelor of Science (Physiology and Pharmacology) from the University of Western Australia, a Bachelor of Arts with first class Honours in Psychology from Murdoch University and a PhD in Psychology from the Australian National University (ANU). He has also worked for the Centre for Mental Health Research at ANU and held a Humboldt Research Fellowship at the Berlin Center for Space Medicine. He is married and has a young son.