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Approved Research

The impact of lifestyle risk factors on brain health across aging

Principal Investigator: Professor Simon Duchesne
Approved Research ID: 85063
Approval date: May 24th 2022

Lay summary

Our project aims to understand the impact of lifestyle risk factors on cognitive decline, such as that experienced in Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Twelve potentially modifiable risk factors have been ascertained for dementia, including lower educational achievement, hypertension, smoking, obesity, and diabetes; we also know that sex and one particular gene (APOE4) increase risk. Our project will use novel data-driven methodologies to ascertain the impact of these risk factors on brain health, as we can measure it via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We will derive a model able to compute the elevation in risk of cognitive decline related to each individual factor as well as combinations of multiple factors.  We will create this model using the UK Biobank data, then test it in other datasets to which we have access locally. Given that the number of new cases of dementia has fallen in many countries, probably because of improvements in education, nutrition, health care, and lifestyle changes, the potential for prevention is therefore high. However, to be effective, one needs to assess risk in the first place, which is what our project will attempt to do. To have any validity, it requires a lot of examples to learn from; and therefore, the UK Biobank is essential to its success.