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TILDA wins prestigious funding to bolster international dementia research

TILDA researchers at Trinity College Dublin have been awarded a highly competitive US National Institute of Health (NIH) grant award to research determinants of physical and brain health in ageing. TILDA has followed its cohort of 8,500 randomly chosen people aged 50 years and over for 12 years. The life histories, detailed repeated comprehensive assessments, and biological samples will be combined with those from equivalent US and Northern Ireland studies to discover indicators of successful brain ageing.

The researchers will join forces with the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, Queen’s University Belfast and University College London to undertake this grand challenge.

The global battle against dementia related diseases

The ageing demographic continues to expand globally and this major achievement carries both opportunities and challenges. In Ireland the numbers of persons over 80 will rise by 65% in the next 20 years. Cognitive impairment and dementia are present in up to 1 in 5 people over 80. The decline in cognitive ability can negatively affect mental abilities such as memory, thinking, language and independent living. Dementia is a progressive extreme decline of cognitive impairment and remains one of the major causes of disability and dependency across the world. According to the World Health Organisation, roughly 50 million people have dementia worldwide, with nearly 10 million new cases every year. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is estimated to contribute to up to 70% of cases.

The collaboration between TILDA and a new global transnational research initiative is significant, enabling extensive bioresource and pooled expertise to tackle cognitive decline and dementia related causes, trends and outcomes.

Internationally, there remains a significant lack of diverse population-representative data on cognitive status and dementia. The aim of the research studies is to create a unique harmonised dataset with a rich longitudinal measurement detailing important causes, indicators, connections and consequences of cognitive decline to strengthen and develop scientific knowledge for the assessment of cognitive performance and functional limitations. The new programme is known as ‘ HCAP’ and will expand research opportunities on the epidemiology and repercussions of cognitive decline and dementia while bolstering harmonisation across international longitudinal studies and advancing TILDA and Trinity’s international footprint.

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA and head of Medical Gerontology at Trinity College Dublin said:

“TILDA is delighted to continue further collaboration with our US and UK colleagues in this new initiative, to better understand brain ageing and expand our resources and deepen our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Trinity and TILDA provide unique insights and expertise into cardiovascular determinants of brain health and possible modifiable vascular risk factors. Cognitive decline and dementia related diseases remain a significant challenge for the individual, families, governments and policymakers. We look forward to contributing our expertise alongside our international counterparts, to harmonising and strengthening analytical measures, and acquiring a better understanding of dementia risk factors. This will provide us with new approaches for prevention and possibly treatment.”

Dr Christine Mc Garrigle, Social Epidemiology Senior Research Fellow at TILDA and project lead said:

This grant provides a remarkable opportunity to contribute a wealth of research data to help improve and understand the science behind the causes of dementia in Ireland and further afield. There is no singular test used to diagnose types of dementia. By gathering data from what we know about the symptoms, diagnoses and experiences of older people living in Ireland this will improve assessments, tests and treatments to improve cognitive ageing outcomes for patients in the future.

Research reported in this press release was supported by the National Institute of Health under award R01AG060167 – 01A1.To find out more about the HCAP, please visit the Health and Retirement Study’s HCAP page here.