Dementia Research News, Issue 27 - August 2019

Director's Update

With the second half of the year well and truly upon us, we turn our attention to advancing NNIDR’s special interest groups, which bring together members to address particular topics within the field of dementia research. These groups promote collaboration and further new, and emerging, research areas. We're so pleased at the number of ideas and projects being proposed and happy to be in a position to support these groups in their activities. Special interest groups represent a vital step in retaining capacity and growing leadership in dementia research in Australia.

In this edition, we’re also pleased to be able to share an update on the final round of funding through the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative and the thirteen research projects that will focus on risk reduction and improving data methods. We report on an exciting opportunity to strengthen the global dementia research network at the AAIC Satellite Symposium, and provide details of a new scholarship on offer from the American Association of Neuropathologists.

The latest Boosting Dementia Research Grant recipients

Federal Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP last month announced $21 million in funding for thirteen research projects that will focus on risk reduction, prevention and tracking of dementia, bringing the total investment under the Boosting Dementia Research Grant scheme to $200 million.

With this announcement, the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative has awarded 146 grants, to 366 researchers across 29 universities and research institutes.

Visit the NHMRC website to see the full announcement from Federal Minister for Health the Hon. Greg Hunt MP.

AAIC Satellite Symposium

The Alzheimer's Association is thrilled to invite Australian researchers to explore emerging dementia science at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC®) Satellite Symposium in Sydney, 25-27 September 2019.

From North America to Europe, South America to Asia, and now, Oceania, AAIC Satellite Symposia convene experts in the field to address regional developments around Alzheimer's and other dementias. The three-day program will focus on topics including:

  • brain health and dementia risk, including lifestyle and behavioural factors
  • emerging therapeutics and development in Alzheimer's clinical research
  • the role of psychosocial, care and non-pharmacological interventions in Alzheimer's and other dementias
  • epidemiology of Alzheimer's disease and dementia
  • advance in biomarkers, such as imaging and biofluids
  • emerging areas of investigation, and more.

International speakers include Filippo Baldacci (Italy), Tien Yin Wong (Singapore), Maya Koronyo (US), Kaj Blennow (Sweden), Akinori Nakamura (Japan), Anna Baron (Singapore), Eina Sigurdsson (US), CJ Barhum (US), Maria Carrillo (US), Malu Tansey (US), Fanny Elahi (US), Donna Wilcock (US), Hanzhang Lu (US), Naren Rao (India), Christopher Chen (Singapore), Rachel Whitmer (US), and Charles DeCarli (US).

Australian speakers include Kaarin Anstey, Henry Brodaty, Juergen Goetz, Yun Hee Jeon, Nicola Lautenschlager, Ralph Martins, Colin Masters, Wendy Moyle, Chris Rowe, Perminder Sachdev, Peter Schofield, Kate Smith, Velandai Srikanth, Cassandra Szoeke, and Victor Villemagne.

Affordability for higher degree research students and community members has been a key consideration. This conference is a valuable opportunity for exposure to the global research effort, networking, and keeping up-to-date on the latest discoveries.

Visit the AAIC Satellite Symposium website to register.

AANP Neurodegenerative Disease Scholars Program

In recognition of the importance of neuropathological skills in the global dementia research effort, the American Association of Neuropathologists (AANP) will provide funding for 20 AANP Scholars to attend a new, three-year trainee career development workshop. The grant will also provide 10 AANP Trainee Travel Awards, 10 AANP Women and Diversity Trainee Travel Awards, financial support for childcare services at the AANP Annual Meeting and an award for the Best Neurodegenerative Disease Case presented at the Annual Meeting’s Diagnostic Slide Session.

Funded by the United States National Institute on Ageing (NIA), the opportunity will 1) Establish a targeted cohort of neuropathology trainees dedicated to pursuing a career in neurodegenerative disease research; 2) Conduct an annual workshop to promote the dissemination of neurodegenerative disease neuropathology research and promote the transition of neuropathology trainees into academic research careers; 3) Initiate and maintain a formal mentoring network to monitor and promote the success of each individual trainee; and 4) Monitor outcomes of the selected cohort to determine the success rate of this longitudinal intervention.

Those interested in applying to be an AANP Scholar and participate in the three-year pre-conference workshop should complete an application form and submit it via e-mail to Sarah Porter at sporter@aoeconsulting.com by Friday, November 1 2019.

For more information, including the relevant application forms, please click here.

The International Research Network on Dementia Prevention (IRNDP) Conference

The IRNDP will host a global forum on dementia prevention in Sydney, 14-15 October 2019 with international guest speakers Roger A Dixon (The University of Alberta), Laura Middleton (The University of Waterloo), Dr Chengxuan Qiu (The Karolinska Institutet) and Australian keynote Ruth Peters (Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of New South Wales. Registration is free of charge.

Visit the IRNDP website for more information.

Congratulations also go to IRNDP for their open access special edition of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Dementia, Risk, Risk Reduction, and Translation into Practice. 

Click here to view the IRNDP Special Issue.

Fellow profile

Professor Thomas Astell-Burt is enthusiastic about the public health benefits of green spaces in cities.

‘We all have an instinct that the natural environment—trees, parks and other types of green space—is good for us. Studies have shown that they shield us from the sun, they are nice places to meet and they create a sense of community, they clean the air. Research has also shown that if you spend time in a green space or have a view of a park or trees, it improves your mental acuity and reduces the risk of some diseases, such as type 2 diabetes,’ Professor Astell-Burt explains.

‘So when you add up all the benefits for mental health, social life, respiratory health and physical health, all of which may be related to cognition, you start to wonder: can green spaces help prevent dementia?’

That’s the question driving Professor Astell-Burt’s latest research. The Boosting Dementia Leadership Fellow is conducting the first large-scale longitudinal studies to examine if green spaces may help reduce, and narrow socioeconomic inequities in the risk of, Alzheimer’s disease by improving mental health, promoting physical activity and social support, reducing social isolation, preventing depression, reducing mid-life obesity and cardiometabolic disease risk, and buffering harms from traffic-related air pollution.

‘All these factors may have an influence on Alzheimer’s disease according to previous research, but we need to find large-scale, equitable and sustainable ways to support physically and socially active lifestyles, to breathe fresh air and to enable people to do the things they find nourishing. Urban greening could be part of a solution that enriches lives and supports healthier ageing for everyone.’

Professor Astell-Burt is examining this using big data on individuals tracked across a 15-year timespan. Some evidence already looks promising.

‘Evidence is showing us that some folks who live in cities with green areas have slower rates of cognitive decline than others who live in the same conditions but not near a park.’

To test this, Professor Astell-Burt is reviewing environmental and geospatial data on the location of trees, parks and other forms of green space, and blue spaces such as rivers and lakes, to understand where people live and if they have easy access to these spaces. This is blended with health data and analysed using advanced statistical models. This study will help Professor Astell-Burt track over time how much green space more than a quarter of a million people in New South Wales have access to, and identify whether they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

‘And in between we can look at a heap of intermediary factors that might connect where we live to our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, such as how socially and physically active we are, our weight, mental health and non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes.’

With a background in environmental epidemiology and urban geography, Professor Astell-Burt has always been interested in the relationship between nature and human health. At the University of Wollongong he directs the Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab (PowerLab), which includes 16 researchers and students

‘I’m really thankful for the Fellowship that has supported me to follow up on this work and build up the capacities of my lab. It’s not just an investment in one person—we’re nurturing the next generation of environmental epidemiologists and urban data scientists. It’s about building a healthier environment, not just now but for many generations to come.’

Current funding rounds

NHMRC Partnership Projects PR3

This scheme allows applicants to apply at any time during the year rather than through just one annual round. This is to allow researchers and partner organisations to develop timely collaborations. The grant commencement date is not fixed for 1 January—it will be aligned with the timing of each peer review cycle. This allows funding to be administered more quickly after grants are awarded provided all necessary documentation is in place. Minimum data due 20 November 2019.

Visit the NHMRC website for further information.

UKRI-NHMRC Built Environment and Prevention Research Scheme 2019

NHMRC is partnering with UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Medical Research Council (MRC) and Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) to support research proposals that aim to generate evidence that can be translated into actionable, sustainable and cost-effective ways of preventing NCDs, to improve population health and reduce health inequalities in the UK and Australia. 

Funding is for up to three years and NHMRC has committed up to $4 million to support the Australian component of projects commencing in 2020. The areas listed below are given as examples of aspects of the built environment in which multi-disciplinary research proposals are welcomed:

  • urban planning and regeneration
  • city design, including increasing conditions that promote health such as ‘active travel’ and access to green space
  • housing
  • transportation systems
  • air quality, both indoor and outdoor, and noise 
  • the indoor environment
  • neighbourhood diversity, including social regeneration and social cohesion, and access to health services
  • the relationship between the built environment, extreme weather events, and their impact on health.

Proposals need not be restricted to the examples cited as applications across the breadth of the built environment are encouraged. Applications close 16 October 2019.

Visit the NHMRC website for more information.

MRFF International Clinical Trial Collaborations Program PRC3

The ICTC Grant Opportunity will provide support for Australian research teams to conduct clinical trial research in collaboration with international counterparts.

Applications to this grant opportunity must propose a single clinical trial that will achieve the following outcomes:

  • promote Australian involvement in international collaborative investigator-initiated clinical trials research through the establishment and co‑ordination of clinical trial site/s in Australia; and
  • provide high-quality evidence of the effectiveness of novel health treatments, drugs or devices in ‘usual care’ settings, which will support a decision on whether to deliver the intervention in an Australian setting.

Novel health treatments include new and innovative applications of existing interventions. Minimum data due 20 November 2019.

Visit the NHMRC website for more information.

Upcoming events

AAIC Satellite Symposium | Sydney | 25-27 September 2019

Join leading experts at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® (AAIC®) Satellite Symposium, 25-27 September 2019, in Sydney, to explore emerging dementia research in Oceania and network with others who share your interests.

Visit the AAIC Satellite Symposium website to register.

Health Justice 2019 | Sydney | 24-25 September 2019

Health Justice 2019 will explore how practitioners, researchers, policy-makers, service providers and people relying on health and human services can work better together across policy, service design, evaluation and through community engagement to improve health and justice outcomes. Highlights will include measurement of outcomes across disciplines; building partnership capability to work collaboratively; and understanding the intersections of health and justice for people and the services that support them.

Visit the Health Justice 2019 website for more information.

The International Research Network on Dementia Prevention (IRNDP) Global Forum | Sydney | 14-15 October 2019

Abstracts are now open for the IRNDP Global Forum on Dementia Prevention in Sydney. The IRNDP is a multinational network bringing together researchers who are working to reduce the risk of dementia across the world. It is governed by an international leadership committee of dementia experts and a high level independent advisory board of academics, global opinion leaders and stakeholders. The aim of the IRNDP is to link researchers globally to foster new research and accelerate knowledge translation that will delay or prevent dementia worldwide. Abstracts close 1 July 2019Visit the IRDNP website for more information.

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.

Useful references

Gait characteristics and cognitive decline: a longitudinal population-based study
Jayakody O, Breslin M, Srikanth V, Callisaya M
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
Click here to read full article

Type 2 diabetes mellitus, brain atrophy and cognitive decline in older people: a longitudinal study
Callisaya ML, Beare R, Moran C, Phan T, Wang W, Srikanth VK
Diabetologia - Journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes
Click here to read full article

People living in rural areas may be at lower risk of Alzheimer's disease
Professor Thomas Astell-Burt and Associate Professor Xiaoqi Feng
The Conversation
Click here to read the full article

Dementia, Risk, Risk Reduction, and Translation into Practice
Eds. Anstey KJ, Peters R
Open access special edition of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (Vol 70:1) put together by the International Research Network on Dementia Prevention
Click here to read the IRNDP Special Issue

NNIDR Expert Advisory Panel Meeting Communique - 12 June 2019
The Expert Advisory Panel met in Hobart on 12 June 2019, immediately prior to the Australian Dementia Forum 2019. This Communique updates stakeholders on meeting deliberations across key strategic areas.
Click here to view the Communique.

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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