World Alzheimers Day: why we’re excited about dementia research
September 21st is the International Alzheimer’s Day and a fantastic opportunity to look at dementia research through the eyes of the three Centre for Dementia Prevention directors.
Professor Charlotte Clarke, director of the Social Science domain; Professor Craig Ritchie, director of the Clinical Science domain and Professor Jean Manson, director of the Basic Science domain, discuss why they are excited about current developments in dementia research and how their respective domains feed into the global effort of dementia prevention.
Charlotte says that we are getting more and more of an understanding of how people live with dementia and the strengths that they bring to the experience of living with dementia – so it is a very exciting time to be doing research in dementia and especially in social science. In Charlotte’s view, what social science research needs to do now is understand how we can make the most of the knowledge of people’s lived experience and optimise people’s strengths. Social science research aims to create an understanding of how to build people’s resilience and how to manage the risks that people living with dementia are faced with – more over how people living with dementia manage the risks that they understand themselves.
The clinical trials in the Centre for Dementia Prevention have recently moved into a purpose built building in Edinburgh BioQuarter. Craig says that for him, what is particularly exciting about dementia research at the moment is the fact that there have been significant advances over the last 10-15 years in understanding what is going on in the brain many years before dementia develops. The clinical domain has a huge opportunity to try and translate the progress that we are making in the brain and at a biological level into meaningful clinical interventions. And as many of our clinical trials are designed with healthy volunteers as participants, the new interventions would particularly be around preventing people from developing dementia by targeting people in mid-life.
Jean is excited about basic neuroscience as we have never had an opportunity to study the brain as closely as we can today. It is fascinating how we can look into the brain now – see the connections in the brain and understand what is happening between different cells. Jean emphasizes that our challenge is to understand the very early stages of these diseases so that we can find good ways of intervening before the damage is done in the brain. The uniqueness of the Centre for Dementia Prevention is bringing together the basic science, the clinical science and social science and see how they all affects individuals and complement each other in paving the path to dementia prevention.