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Great Minds newsletter: April 2021

The inaugural (April 2021) edition of the Great Minds members' newsletter.

Frontotemporal dementia: a common form of young-onset dementia

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is the second most common form of young-onset dementia, with several different subtypes involving changes in behaviour, personality and language skills.

Sundowning: the condition with symptoms that appear at sunset

Usually seen in people with mid-to-late-stage dementia, sundown syndrome is the appearance of regular behavioural changes such as agitation and confusion around sunset.

Could oestrogen explain why women are more at risk of dementia?

Women are at greater risk of developing dementia than men, and the hormone oestrogen could be a reason why.

Posterior cortical atrophy: a dementia that affects the vision

Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a type of young-onset dementia affecting vision that is caused not by problems with the eyes, but by damage to the back of the brain.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome: a treatable memory disorder

We most often associate the symptoms of dementia with high-profile conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s. But dementia comes in many forms, and has many causes.

New podcast: DPUK's Professor John Gallacher on the future of dementia research

We caught up with Professor John Gallacher, Director of Dementias Platform UK and Professor of Cognitive Health at Oxford University, to get his thoughts on the current state of play in dementia research – and what the future might hold.

Coronavirus care: supporting loved ones with dementia

Supporting a family member through dementia is not easy, and the extra challenges introduced by the coronavirus lockdown can make matters even more challenging. Guest blogger Ruby Clarkson summarises the best advice and the help that's available.

World Diabetes Day: Chemical changes in blood affect risk of developing other diseases

Luke Whiley won a DPUK grant to investigate gut-brain interactions. On World Diabetes Day, he writes about the links between bacteria, diabetes and dementia.

Keeping our brains healthy to reduce dementia risk

Research shows that our lifestyles can affect the health of our brains, and that making a few positive changes can help protect us as we get older. Dr Ivan Koychev is a clinician-scientist at Dementias Platform UK and a senior clinical researcher in Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry.

What it takes to launch a world-scale Alzheimer’s study

There are 100+ researchers, 19 different organisations, 8 different sites and a fearless team conducting it all. Alzheimer’s research today has got so much bigger in its detail and scope. In this blog, Tony, Trial Coordinator of the Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study, gives the inside track on what it’s like to be part of such ambitious research.

What is cognition and why am I asked to complete cognitive tasks?

To better understand and treat the diseases that cause dementia, researchers rely on data provided by health study volunteers who, year on year, undergo a variety of tests. As part of joining Great Minds our members, who come from previous health studies, are asked to complete online- or smartphone-based cognitive tasks. In her blog, Leona Wolters – Research Assistant on Great Minds – describes what cognition is and how cognitive assessments help researchers find the right people for the right trials.

Changes in lifestyle can offset our genetic ‘destiny’

Catherine Calvin, an analyst at Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), investigates population study data of adults in midlife and older, to understand factors that relate to the risk of developing dementia in later life. In a recent paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, Catherine demonstrates that genetic susceptibility to developing obesity – a contributing risk factor for dementia – may be modified by lifestyle habits.

Great Minds coming together

Ivan Koychev, Great Minds lead and Clinical Scientist at Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), describes an exciting new chapter in dementia research which, with the support of generous new members of Great Minds, promises to accelerate the development of innovative new treatments.

Hope for a head start on dementia begins with cohort volunteers

'I’d thought it was all doom and gloom for dementia research’ Marianne said. ‘But I’d not understood that sometimes this is because testing on volunteers only takes place too late'. DPUK brought Marianne Talbot – a cohort participant, and Ivan – an old-age psychiatrist, together to discuss the bright prospects cohorts offer dementia research.

Power to the people: involving the public in finding a treatment for dementia

Five members of the public, all committed to the fight against dementia, recently joined us round the table in London. They shared with us their perspectives of what is critical for volunteers to know before joining research studies. We discovered that clear communication around data security and the volunteer’s control over their contribution is vital to build trust.

At the coalface for DPUK

As a data curation research assistant for DPUK, Josh is chipping away at the coalface of DPUK’s mission to bring cohort data together into a powerful resource for researchers. In his blog he allows us an insight into a key job that makes it possible for researchers to compare data across different cohorts in the Data Portal.