The “greatest tragedy of all” is when people with dementia can’t remember their family, says neuroscientist Sir Richard Faull.
But it’s a problem Sir Richard and his colleagues are looking to solve.
His colleagues at the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland in partnership with Brain Research New Zealand, have launched Dementia Prevention Research Clinics in Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch.
The clinics aim to recruit 400 volunteers with very early memory, cognitive and thinking problems known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) in order to undertake research to identify what factors play a role in slowing down the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is linked to the accretion in brain cells of toxic proteins called amyloid beta and tau.
“We want to investigate how to slow down the accumulation of the toxic proteins,” says Sir Richard. “There’s no magic drug. But there’s lots of things that can help promote slowing it down with lifestyle and how you look after your brain.”
The clinics will aim to test “novel drugs, environmental influences, cognitive stimulation, social and physical interventions designed to delay or ameliorate MCI and slow the development of dementia”.
Alzheimer’s is usually a slowly-progressing condition and it can take 10 to 15 years for the disease to get to the stage where its effects are noticeable.
Sir Richard says that delaying the disease by just five years could see a decrease in its prevalence of up to 50 per cent as people would naturally age and die of other diseases before Alzheimer’s became evident.
“They’d have a higher quality of life for longer and die of a different disease.”