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14 June 2018
News Category: 

Why do some people develop Alzheimer’s disease while others don’t?

Dr Nawaf Yassi, consultant neurologist at the RMH, is a co-chief researcher on the Healthy Brain Project.

An Australian-first online study is aiming to answer this question by tracking more than 10,000 middle-aged Australians over a five year period to identify factors that may predict the development of dementia.

The study, known as the Healthy Brain Project, is jointly led by consultant neurologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Dr Nawaf Yassi, and neuroscientists Dr Rachel Buckley and Dr Yen Ying Lim from The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

Once a year the study participants will undertake a series of online memory and thinking tests and fill out surveys related to lifestyle, mood, personality, medical history and demographic information.

The study requires just two hours of the participants’ time annually, as well as a one-off saliva test that is mailed to the participant.

This information will help researchers determine the biological, genetic, psychological, behavioural and lifestyle factors that may predict who will develop dementia later in life.

Dr Yassi is a chief researcher on the project and is also leading a smaller sub-study that will take place at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and include more detailed assessments focusing on risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

“We know that the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, begins in the brain up to 30 years before a diagnosis is made; and we also know that diseases of the blood vessels in the brain in midlife are amongst the strongest risk factors for future dementia,” Dr Yassi said.

“Studying these diseases in their earliest stages in mid-life gives us the best chance to find an effective treatment.”

Healthy Brain Project Study Co-ordinator, Dr Lisa Bransby, said one of the most important aspects of the study is its reach and accessibility to participants.

“The study is solely online and because there is no need for participants to physically come in to a laboratory, it means that people in remote areas and people who otherwise would not have been able to participate in a study of this nature can now be part of this research,” Lisa said.

There are currently more than 3,500 participants registered for the study, with an aim to recruit more than 10,000 participants over the next five years.

For more information on the study and to check your eligibility to participate, visit the Healthy Brain Project website.

The Healthy Brain Project is supported by grants from the NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research, and the Alzheimer’s Association International Research Grant Program.

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