UNSW's Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) is a successful recipient in the Australian Government announcement that $40.1 million has been allocated to dementia research. A range of projects have been funded which aim to improve the lives of people living with dementia, and investigate effects and causes of the disease.
Dr Nicole Kochan, Research Fellow at CHeBA has been awarded a Boosting Dementia Research Grant for a world-first study to systematically evaluate and compare several prominent and widely-used computerised neuropsychological test batteries used for assessing cognition in older adults with and without dementia.
Dementia is a major health problem with 200 Australians diagnosed every day and at least as many having mild cognitive impairment, which often precedes dementia. Early diagnosis is seen as critical for interventions yet many older adults do not receive timely diagnosis.
Objective assessment of cognitive abilities is essential for accurate diagnosis at mild or early stages.
“With an ageing population and associated increase in dementia there will be increased demand for neuropsychological assessment, however there are insufficient trained personnel and resources to meet this demand,” said Dr Kochan.
“Computerised tests using tablet computers and internet delivery offer excellent opportunities for large scale implementation of cognitive screening and monitoring of older adults.
“Establishing the reliability and validity of these computerised tests is of critical importance before we can implement them into clinical practice. We anticipate that this study will move the field forward and have a major impact on the practice of cognitive testing in older adults with suspected cognitive decline,” said Dr Kochan.
The projects supported are part of the $200 million funding announced in the 2014-15 Budget.
CHeBA Co-Director Professor Henry Brodaty also derived success in this round as an investigator on two separate studies led by Monash University and the University of Sydney.
“Australia has an excellent track record in dementia research,” said Professor Henry Brodaty.
“These grants demonstrate a strong Government commitment to address a burgeoning health issue and accelerate critical research to alter the course of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in Australia.”
The grants will support researchers undertaking projects in identified priority areas that deliver on the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) National Institute for Dementia Research’s policy to expand leadership in the study of dementia.
People with dementia and their carers helped set the priorities for these research projects and contributed to the expert review to choose the best grants.
In 2017, there are estimated to be 413,106 Australians living with dementia and by 2025 this number is expected to increase to 536,000.1
With the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognising dementia as a global health priority, these grants will bring researchers from universities and institutes together with health workers and clinicians to produce better outcomes for dementia care.
Together they constitute a sustained effort to strengthen the evidence base for those methods and treatments that have shown promise in particular care circumstances.
Other research institutes successful in acquiring a boosting dementia grant include the University of Melbourne, University of Newcastle, University of Sydney and University of Western Australia.
A full list of grant recipients is available on the NHMRC website: www.nhmrc.gov.au
1The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling NATSEM (2016) Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056
Media contact: Heidi Douglass, Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, +61 2 9382 3398, 0435 579 202
For more information about CHeBA: www.cheba.unsw.edu.au