The Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) was successful in the latest round of funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). In March 2015, the Minister for Health, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, announced that CHeBA will receive an NHMRC program grant worth $6.78 million for researching strategies for early detection and intervention to slow the development of mild neurocognitive disorders and dementia.
The aim of the Program Grants scheme is to provide support for teams of high calibre researchers to pursue broad based, multi-disciplinary and collaborative research addressing complex problems. Teams are expected to contribute to new knowledge at a leading international level in important areas of health and medical research.
“Our program will focus on early detection of dementia, identification of novel risk factors, and development of new treatments, to help the burden of dementia in our community,” says the chief investigator on the program, CHeBA Co-Director Professor Perminder Sachdev.
“It will build on three longitudinal studies – Sydney Memory and Ageing Study, Older Australian Twins Study and Sydney Centenarian Study – and three international consortia – COSMIC, STROKOG and ICC-Dementia – that the investigators have developed to achieve these aims. A prevention trial for post-stroke dementia is planned, and the investigators will examine if low voltage brain stimulation can enhance the effect of cognitive training on memory.”
According to the 2012 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, direct health and residential care costs of dementia currently exceed $4.9 billion per annum, not including the indirect costs in foregone earnings, carer time and expense. If dementia rates continue to rise at predicted rates with the ageing population, the cost will total 3.6% of the GDP by 2051. Mild neurocognitive disorders are not included in these figures and comprise an additional hidden burden. Without research into risk factors and strategies for prevention and early diagnosis, the economic and social cost of dementia will be devastating.
The NHMRC-funded program grant provides the core funding for research at CHeBA. It will be supplemented by The Dementia Momentum, an initiative launched by CHeBA last month to change the future of dementia incidence. The Dementia Momentum seeks to increase dialogue with the community about this disease and give an opportunity for philanthropists and corporates to invest firmly in social change by advancing the large-scale, "big data" research being conducted at CHeBA. This includes the analysis of large population data-sets collected through international consortia to identify risk and protective factors for dementia.
“Our work will make a significant impact on the diagnosis of neurocognitive disorders in the early stages, and the postponement of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular cognitive disorder. Our group is closely engaged with the community as well as policy makers, to ensure that our research makes a real difference to the burden of neurocognitive disorders in older individuals, both in Australia and internationally,” says Professor Sachdev.