College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Dementia prevention hopes raised by major study

Dementia researchers are to receive a £1.9 million investment to identify the earliest brain changes associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia brain scan

A new brain imaging project – known as the TriBEKa Consortium – will paint the clearest picture yet of the first factors that determine risk of dementia.

Researchers will use a brain scanning technique known as positron emission tomography (PET) to detect harmful build-up of chemicals associated with dementia. Brain structure will be measured using a tool known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The initiative – the largest of its type to focus on this age group – brings together experts led by the University of Edinburgh in the UK, the BarcelonaBeta Brain Research Centre in Spain and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.


Although the condition is associated with old age, changes in the brain that lead to dementia can occur decades before symptoms appear. Experts say that understanding these changes are key to developing ways to intervene before irreversible damage has been done.

Participants in the study – aged between 40 and 65 – will also take part in memory tests, family history and lifestyle assessments and will be invited to take part in a three-year follow-up.

Data gathered from the project will be made available to the global science community using data-sharing platform known as the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN).

The funding boost comes from the US-based Alzheimer’s Association and donation from an anonymous international charitable foundation. 

Dementia is an urgent health issue and requires forward-thinking international collaboration to defeat it. As brain changes that cause dementia happen many years before symptoms, we have an opportunity to prevent progression before people are affected.

Professor Craig RitchieDirector, Centre for Dementia Prevention, University of Edinburgh Citation role (optional)