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Approved Research

Social Health and Reserve in the Dementia patient journey (JPND/NHMRC SHARED)

Principal Investigator: Professor Henry Brodaty
Approved Research ID: 63291
Approval date: November 10th 2020

Lay summary

Dementia is set to overtake heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of disability in the world. It costs the economy trillions of dollars due to healthcare costs, as well as the time and money carers spend to look after their loved ones. Despite 100 years of research, we still have no cure for dementia. We must now turn our attention to prevention. We know that genetics, fewer years of education, high blood pressure, diabetes and lack of exercise play a role in the development of dementia. What remains a mystery is how powerful social interactions are in keeping the brain healthy and young. Studies done so far have only counted the number of people we know (friends/family/colleagues) to study social interactions in the context of ageing. We want to go beyond this and study the amount or type of social interactions required to prevention or slow the disease.

This project will also look at how our social interactions change our brain as we age, and also the other way around (how the brain impacts our social interactions). We want to study why certain people can still do everyday tasks (like shopping, cooking, socialising) despite more dementia related loss of brain regions, while others cannot.  To study the ageing brain, we will use data from the UK Biobank (500,000 people) and also many other studies from Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. This will give us a global view of humanity and allow us to look at regional differences in culture and social interactions and their impact on brain ageing. We hope to provide guidelines to governments and health systems around the world about the types of social support and interactions required to reduce the number of people with dementia.