Dementia Research News, Issue 24 - February 2019

 

Director's update

Welcome to the first edition of Dementia Research News for 2019. We’ve all been busy back at work to bring you an exciting year of events and developments. I hope you have all returned rejuvenated from the festive season, and ready to tackle the year ahead.

In this edition, we're pleased to share an update from our Accelerator Working Group, the details of our next Development Webinar, and a profile of the inspirational research neurologist Dr. Nawaf Yassi – NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow examining the overlap between dementia and strokes. As always, we’ve also included the latest upcoming events of interest, including our own National Public Lecture Tour and the Australian Dementia Forum in June, as well as a selection of useful references for your information.

The Australian Dementia Forum is fast approaching – with abstract submissions closing this week. If you’d like to join our international keynote speakers, Professor Carol Brayne (UK), Dr Alexandre Kalache (Brazil) and Dr Jeff Williamson (US) on our Hobart stage, be sure to submit your abstract by 11.59pm AEDT Friday 1 March 2019. This year’s theme provides a unique opportunity to highlight the impact of dementia research being undertaken in Australia.

We're pleased to be hosting the second NNIDR Development Webinar next month (5 March). The second edition of this series will feature Director of Social Gerontology at the National Ageing Research Institute, Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath, as she examines the importance of including people with dementia from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in dementia research, to the benefit of all. Details on registering for this upcoming webinar are outlined below – I strongly encourage researchers at all career stages to consider attending.

Next month marks the start of our National Public Lecture Tour for 2019. Coinciding with Brain Awareness Week (18-22 March 2019), we’ll be convening public lectures and panels in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, Brisbane and Perth to communicate the latest dementia care research to the research community and people living with dementia, their carers and families. We’re very pleased to have international keynote speaker Dr Vincent Mor of Brown University (US) joining us in Sydney and Melbourne. Please attend, and please spread the word.

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Fellows work to maintain capacity into the future - the Accelerator Group

A new working group - the Accelerator Group - is providing capacity building and career support to NNIDR’s cohort of Development Fellows. In doing so, the group is helping to address the challenge of maintaining the increased dementia research capacity and momentum created by the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative. This was a challenge highlighted in NNIDR’s 2018 Fellows survey, where 69% of respondents said they did not currently have funded positions to go to at the end of their Fellowship.

NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowships are a key measure aimed at increasing Australia’s research capacity in dementia research and translation. There are currently 72 active Fellows. Most will complete their Fellowships this year, with several running through to the end of 2022.

The Accelerator Group was established in September 2018. It is convened and mentored by Leadership Fellow, Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low, and comprises six NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellows from across the country. The group is developing a program to support the Development Fellow cohort as they transition into the next phase of their careers. This includes a mentoring program from early 2019 and a series of webinars that began last year. The first webinar in the series, Ready for Impact, provided insights on how to plan for and document impact from research, with the second webinar described below. 

Other initiatives include communicating the revised Strategic Roadmap for Dementia Research and Translation, career building through novel ways of sourcing support and raising Fellows’ profiles, and a planned Fellows retreat at the Australian Dementia Forum 2019 on 12 June 2019 in Hobart.

To identify support needs, the group hosted the NNIDR 2018 Fellows survey late last year. The survey found that 82% of respondents intend to continue to conduct research in the area of dementia, 88% indicated an interest in participating in a mentoring and sponsorship scheme supported by NNIDR, and 86% supported the use of an online collaboration portal to support their work and engagement in the sector. 

The Accelerator Group is another example of how NNIDR is supporting increased collaboration across research areas and institutions and strengthening researcher networks.

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Australian Dementia Forum 2019

There are two days remaining to submit your abstract for consideration at the Australian Dementia Forum in Hobart this June. Join Dr Jeff Williamson of Wake Forest Baptist Health (US), Dr Alexandre Kalache of the International Centre for Policies on Ageing (Brazil), Professor Carol Brayne of Cambridge University (UK) and Professor Lizzie Coulson of the Queensland Brain Institute (Australia), as we examine the impact of dementia research in Australia.

Abstract submissions are now open for oral and poster presentations, roundtable sessions, and public involvement travel awards. Abstract submissions will close 11.59pm AEST 1 March 2019

Click here to submit your abstract.
Click here to register for ADF2019.

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Accelerator Day: ADF19 pre-conference workshop

Are you an early- to mid-career researcher?

The Accelerator Day is a workshop opportunity for researchers to participate in networking and mentoring activities to help build valuable skills and develop their careers. There will be a keynote presentation by Professor Sharon Naismith, University of Sydney, an interactive panel discussion on career pathways, and a speed peer mentoring session. This is a free pre-conference activity, however places are limited and registration is essential. Please select your attendance when registering for ADF2019.

Date: Wednesday 12 June 2019
Time: 2:00pm - 6:00pm
Place: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart

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Fellow profile: Dr Nawaf Yassi

“It’s a very exciting time to be working in dementia research. There are a lot of opportunities for collaboration and a lot of work being done in Australia. It’s an incredibly dynamic and evolving field.” 

Changes in the brains of dementia patients start years before symptoms emerge. Dr Nawaf Yassi is poring over hundreds of brain scans to find out more about these changes, aiming to improve the way we identify the risk, understand the impact, and treat dementia.

An NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow at The University of Melbourne and The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Dr Yassi is bringing his expertise as a stroke neurologist and researcher to dementia research.

"In recent times there has been a massive revolution in how we treat stroke and I’m very excited about how we translate our research in that area to come up with pragmatic solutions to slow decline and potentially prevent dementia," Dr Yassi explains.

His current research looks at the overlap between dementia caused by damage to the brain from strokes, and Alzheimer’s disease caused by accumulation of amyloid protein in the brain. Traditionally considered quite separate, the two disease processes are now understood to be closely related and often present within the same patient to varying degrees. This is especially the case for people aged 70 or over.

"The presence of both conditions is strongly associated with cognitive decline. This raises the intriguing possibility that if clinicians could determine the contribution of each pathology in a given patient, treatment decisions can be highly targeted and much more effective. What we’re doing with this research is using MRI scanning technology to try to come up with a ‘vascular cognitive risk’ score to identify how a person’s vascular disease will affect their outcomes," says Dr Yassi.

During the Fellowship, he has access to the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers & Lifestyle Flagship Study of Aging (AIBL). Dating back to 2006, this is the largest study of its kind in Australia and includes brain scans as well as data on biomarkers, cognitive characteristics and health and lifestyle factors from people with and without cognitive decline.

"This is the first time within the AIBL dataset that we have been looking at vascular changes on the brain scans with this level of detail. One of the things that struck me about stroke research is that we are very focused on early and physical recovery, but people with stroke often have long-term cognitive issues that are untreated or unrecognised. When you combine that with Alzheimer’s, this is going to be incredibly important to tackle as a society. We will need people with expertise in both fields to tackle the overlap effectively, rather than working in silos."

This has been one of the benefits of the Fellowship. "The flexibility to be able to explore new areas of interest and build partnerships and collaborations that I’ve had as part of this Fellowship has been fantastic, and has been really critical in forming the direction for this research program. Without it, very little of what I’ve been able to achieve so far would have been possible."

Dr Yassi also values the opportunities to connect with other stakeholders made possible through NNIDR. "Five or 10 years ago there were a lot of silos and people doing their own work, but now there is a much greater sense of collaboration and the involvement of patients and carers really allows us to crystallise our priorities and design research that is going to be more feasible and allow more people to be involved, which is very important."

There are several strings to Dr Yassi’s research bow. As well as the work using AIBL data, he is involved in the Healthy Brain Project, an online study tracking 5,000 middle-aged Australians to try and understand why some people develop Alzheimer’s disease and some don’t.

He also collaborates closely with Dr Rosie Watson on a study investigating Lewy body dementia and its comorbidity with vascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. And he is involved in an Australian trial to test whether the medication SAMe—sometimes used to treat osteoarthritis or depression—can reduce the levels of toxic protein in the brain as a potential way to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

"It’s a very exciting time to be working in dementia research. There are a lot of opportunities for collaboration and a lot of work being done in Australia. It’s an incredibly dynamic and evolving field."

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NNIDR Development Webinar Series

The next edition of the NNIDR Development Webinar: Inclusion of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) participants and perspectives in dementia research with Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath will take place 1pm (AEDT) Tuesday 5 March 2019

With one in three older people being from a CALD background, Australia is both an increasingly ageing and multicultural nation. However, the underrepresentation of CALD communities in research is a fundamental issue that characterises most Australian research on, and beyond, dementia. Consequently, many research findings translated into clinical practice and social policy may not be culturally appropriate, do not account for differences across Australia’s multicultural groups, and risk perpetuating social inequalities.

This webinar will outline the current gaps in Australian dementia research vis-à-vis the inclusion of CALD communities; ways to ameliorate some of these gaps including addressing methodological difficulties around recruitment, accessing big data, and costs of such research; and the potential advances for individual researchers.

Join Associate Professor Brijnath via Zoom videoconferencing link, and learn how your research could reach and positively impact even more people.

Registrations essential, please click here to register your attendance.

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Hopes for increased diversity in dementia research

Danijela Hlis is a bi-cultural social support worker, presenter, published author, diversional therapist, research contributor and consumer advocate. Having cared for and supported her mother, aunt and three friends through dementia diagnoses and progression, Danijela has spent the last 9 years involved with Queensland Health, Dementia Australia, Hammond Care and NNIDR, sharing her insights and working towards improved health outcomes for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities living with dementia. Danijela's book, Forget-me-nots/Spominčice, is a bilingual collection of works depicting the lives of people of CALD backgrounds in Australia, dealing with dementia, ageing, disability, isolation, and exclusion.

Danijela is currently working with the NNIDR CALD Steering Group to establish a CALD action plan to increase the involvement of people living with dementia in research. The importance of this work was highlighted in Danijela's submission to the Australian Journal of Dementia Care this month, articulating the objectives of her CALD advocacy.

  • we ask for greater collaboration between all researchers and organisations involved in dementia research
  • we ask for diversity and inclusion to be fully embraced - only in this way can human rights be upheld and respected, and
  • we ask that all involved in research understand that the benefit of involving CALD individuals in dementia research far outweighs the challenge of overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers

"It is difficult to comprehend the distress of someone reverting back to their mother tongue, therefore losing the ability to ask for additional care within residential care settings. In these instances it's vital that staff have access to culturally inclusive resources and know how to utilise them," says Danijela.

Danijela strongly believes that an action plan is needed to increase participation in dementia research by members of CALD communities.

Danijela's opinion piece is featured in the Australian Journal of Dementia Care (pg. 15-16, Vol 8, No 1, February/March 2019) along with an article on the development of a CALD Action Plan from Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath, Dr Samantha Croy and NNIDR Assistant Director Stephanie Ellis (p. 14).

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NNIDR has moved... email addresses

NNIDR has made a small, but vital change to our email addresses. You can now reach us by emailing your contacts at nnidr.gov.au.

For example, our general enquiry address has been updated to NNIDR@nnidr.gov.au. Individual staff emails are now firstname.lastname@nnidr.gov.au.

Please update your contact lists and saved contacts in Outlook or other mail applications to avoid any confusion.

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International Research Network on Dementia Prevention (IRNDP) launches new website

The IRNDP has launched a new website. The updated site includes great new features, including a membership survey, an ongoing primary care research program, behind the scenes benefits for members, resources and early career researcher profiles. To access this content, please visit the IRNDP site and register here.

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Meet the NNIDR team - Pauline Gallacher, Projects and Reporting Officer

We’re pleased to introduce you to Pauline Gallacher, who joined the NNIDR team in 2018 as Projects and Reporting Officer. Pauline comes from a project coordination background in youth services, education and the community sector and is responsible for keeping the many NNIDR projects and work programs on track.

True to form, our Projects and Reporting Officer is incredibly well-organised.

"I even enjoy colour coordinating everything – from the textiles in my home furniture, to my clothing and my notes," said Pauline.

When she’s not compiling progress reports, mapping out project timelines or confirming milestones, Pauline is indulging her keen sense of adventure.

"Being Scottish, I enjoy a good hike, so my husband and I are enjoying the many bush walks here in the ACT and surrounds. I’ve also recently discovered my green fingers and enjoy gardening and tending to my large collection of indoor plants!"

Since moving to Australia, Pauline has also made a point of experiencing the very best of the Australian landscape, by driving a campervan down the Great Ocean Road and through the Kimberley.

"You can go days and days and see nothing but the red earth. Each area has its own unique terrain and being in the outback watching the stars each night was a pretty memorable experience," said Pauline.

On working at NNIDR, Pauline says it’s been a great match.

"We are a small team of really interesting, clever, funny and unique people who are doing a lot of great work! There’s a nice balance of fun and seriousness when it comes to our team and getting the job done."

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Current funding rounds

NHMRC-European Union Joint Program on Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND) Joint Call for Multinational research projects on Personalised Medicine for Neurodegenerative Diseases (JPco-fuND-2

NHMRC has allocated funding to provide grants to Australian-based researchers who are participating as collaborators in international consortia under the JPND Call for Multinational research projects on Personalised Medicine for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Further details for the call and guidance documents can be found on the  JPND website.

NHMRC will provide merit-based funding for the Australian-based components of research, where the transnational consortium has been recommended for funding by the JPND. Visit the NHMRC website for further detail.

Targeted Call for Research into Frailty in Hospital Care: Complex Health Needs

This Targeted Call for Research (TCR) aims to encourage research that addresses how frail persons can be supported to avoid hospitalisations, receive optimal care when admitted, and achieve the best health recovery outcomes, through integrated and coordinated in- and post-hospital interventions.

This TCR was prioritised by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) Working Committee. A TCR is a one-time solicitation for grant applications to address a specific health issue. 

The Council of Australian Governments agreed that AHMAC work with the NHMRC to identify areas of priority research that could be funded, possibly jointly with States and Territories, through the TCR programme.

Visit the NHMRC website for further detail.

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Upcoming events

NNIDR National Public Lecture Tour 2019 - Applying the latest dementia care research | Various locations | 18-22 March 2019

The NNIDR National Public Lecture Tour will explore dementia care and how the latest research can help people living with dementia live longer, and well, at home and in their local community. It will provide an opportunity for people living with dementia, their carers and families, as well as researchers, to learn from leading experts about improved dementia care across multiple settings.

Following the keynote presentation and panel discussion, you will have an opportunity to discuss the presented research and identify practical and helpful strategies to improve care for people living with dementia in your local community.

Visit the Lecture Tour website for further information, and to register your attendance.

Australian & New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine (ANZGSM) Annual Scientific Meeting | Adelaide | 13-15 May 2019
The 2019 ANZSGM Conference theme Geriatric Medicine – Best care to the end will focus on evidence and innovation in the care of older adults and in end of life care. The program will also feature updates in cardiovascular and neurological diseases in older patients.
For more information, visit the conference website.

NNIDR Australian Dementia Forum (ADF) 2019 | Hobart | 13-14 June 2019
The ADF2019 theme Shining a light on the impact of dementia research, will examine how best to maximise the impact and benefit of dementia research to the whole community - for people living with dementia, their families and carers, and those at risk of dementia - through accelerated research translation.
For more information, visit the conference website.

5th International Conference on Ageing in a Foreign Land | Adelaide | 19-20 June 2019
Ageing in a Foreign Land delivers a unique conference program that appeals to a broad range of audiences from policy, research, clinical, government and community sectors, focused on older CALD people and communities. Themed ‘Ageing Well Through Communities, Capacity and Innovation’, the 2019 Ageing in a Foreign Land Conference will build capacity through sharing knowledge and showcasing research innovation with broad range of application for services, co-designing practices and evidence for ageing policy led approaches. For more information, visit the conference website.

Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) | Los Angeles | 12-18 July 2019
International investigators, clinicians and care providers will gather at AAIC2019 to share the latest study results, theories and discoveries that will help bring the world closer to breakthroughs in dementia science.
For more information, visit the conference website.

52nd Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG) Conference | Sydney | 5-8 November 2019
The 52nd annual AAG Conference will consider the theme 'Coming of Age Together: New Ways of Knowing and Acting'. Abstract submissions are now open. Visit the conference website for more information.

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Useful References

Openness, inclusion, and respect in dementia research​
The Lancet Neurology
Click here to read more.

Implications of sleep disturbance and inflammation for Alzheimer's disease dementia
The Lancet Neurology
Click here to read more.

The 18th International Conference on Frontotemporal Dementias podcasts
During the ICFTD 2018 Conference and the Carers Day the Secretariat commissioned a journalist to undertake some interviews of speakers, delegates and carers. These are now available online and provide some insightful listening.
Click here to read more.

Dietary Patterns and Cognitive Health in Older Adults: A Systematic Review
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
Click here to read more.

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Call for papers

Have you published a research paper on dementia lately? Have you just had a paper accepted for publication? Let us know and we’ll include a link to it in our next issue! Simply send a link to your paper by email

Share your story

If you have a story to share on dementia, whether research or personal experience, please contact the NNIDR Communications Officer, Bojana Kos by email or phone 02 6217 9172. Your story may be published in the next newsletter, or used as vignettes in NNIDR-related communication materials, or created into a feature story and pitched to the media.

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