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Tackling dementia: G8 dementia summit announces over £6 million for research including Brunel

Researchers from Brunel University, London are taking part in two major research projects into dementia.

Funding for the research was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at the G8 Dementia Summit in London on 11 December. With the level of funding into research into dementia criticised by charities as being too low, the investment in these projects represents hope for the 800,000 people living with the disease in the UK.

Both projects focus on helping people live well with dementia. They are:

1. Seeing what they see: compensating for cortical visual dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease (£2.7 million)

This project is being led by Dr Sebastian Crutch, University College London, Brunel’s Professor Mary Gilhooly, and Professor Ken Gilhooly. Dr Mary Pat Sullivan and Dr Anne McIntyre from Brunel will be leading the social science aspect of the study.

This project will be investigating what support can be beneficial to people whose vision is affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Sullivan explained, “Problems with vision can affect behaviour and cause hallucinations or delusions, for example, people can become agitated because curved patterns on curtains are misinterpreted as snakes slithering down the wall.”

“To date, most solutions focus on tools which require the person to use their sight, such as written instructions or signs. But often simple remedies are most effective, such as using red plates on a white tablecloth so they stand out more. This type of support from carers will be the focus of this project.”

Another area of research is Posterior Cortical Atrophy – a type of Alzheimer’s disease which affects vision and not memory. By working with people suffering from this, researchers hope to get an insight to how people whose memory has been affected view the world and in turn improve support available.

2. Improving the experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active life: the IDEAL study (£4 million)

This project is led by Professor Linda Clare at Bangor University. Brunel’s Professor Christina Victor will be leading on the impact, engagement and research capacity workstream.

IDEAL is a major, five-year study of 1500 people with dementia and their family carers which looks at how people can be helped to live well with dementia.  Researchers will examine how social and psychological factors affect people adapting to the effects of dementia, and how these challenges change as dementia progresses. Researchers hope to identify at what stage individuals, communities, health and social care practitioners, care providers and policy-makers can best intervene to improve the quality of life for those with dementia.

Professor Victor said: “This study will be the first large-scale study of its kind into dementia. Our involvement in this high quality research reflects the strength of ageing research at the Brunel Institute of Ageing Research (BIAS). I am delighted to be part of the IDEAL project team and to have the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people with dementia and their carers. ‘’