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Approved Research

Understanding genetic and modifiable risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases

Principal Investigator: Professor Yun Freudenberg-Hua
Approved Research ID: 84323
Approval date: May 20th 2022

Lay summary

Both genetic and non-genetic (life-style and clinical) factors play an etiological role in dementia. Understanding potentially modifiable clinical risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease is of critical importance for prevention and intervention. Neuropsychiatric symptoms such as depression and psychotropic medications have been associated with higher risk for dementia. However, individuals who are in the prodromal stage (several years before the diagnosis of dementia) often develop neuropsychiatric symptoms and take psychotropic medications. This makes it difficult to study the causal relationships. We study whether individuals who carry high genetic risks for dementia are also more likely to develop neuropsychiatric symptoms in mid-life. We will account for individual genetic risks for dementia when analyzing the association between neuropsychiatric diagnoses and psychotropic medication and dementia risk. If we can identify medications that affect dementia risk or medications that interact with genetic risks, we will be able to modify such risk factors. Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 had also been associated with higher occurrences of neuropsychiatric symptoms and dementia. We will investigate the interplay between COVID-19 and other infections, psychotropic medications and new dementia diagnosis. Insights gained from this project may lead to better dementia prevention or delaying of dementia onset. If infections such as COVID-19 would increase the risk of dementia, particularly in combination with genetic risks or use of certain medication, at-risk individuals should receive cognitive screening and appropriate care. The duration of this project is expected to be three years.