Age UK’s Disconnected Mind Campaign benefits from
Sidney De Haan Research Award from PDHCT
One of the most burdensome and feared aspects of old age is the threat of deterioration of cognitive skills, like memory, reasoning and other aspects of thinking. People who experience mental deterioration are less able to look after themselves and have a less rewarding old age.
In 2006 The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust (PDHCT) awarded The Sidney De Haan Research Award into Vascular Dementia to Age UKâ€™sÂ Disconnected MindÂ Campaign.Â The Disconnected Mind projectÂ is taking place at the University of Edinburgh. Its scientific investigations focus on the contribution to cognitive ageing of deterioration in the wiring between nerve cells in the brain (the white matter). The sample that is testedâ€”the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (LBC1936)â€”have such rich information that many other possible contributions to cognitive ageing are also being studied, including several vascular factors.
Funding from PDHCT has thus been key in enabling a major study of cognitive ageing in the unique LBC1936 group, composed of around 1000 people in their 70s living in the Edinburgh and Lothian area of Scotland. All of these people took a well-validated cognitive ability test at age 11. At age 70 they: took the same test again, and a large additional group of mental test to cover the main domains of thinking skills; underwent a detailed medical and health investigation; gave blood samples for geentifc testing and testing of ageing biomarkers and health; and provided much information on their lifestyles, wellbeing and social background. Our funding has helped to revaluate the group at age 73 with the most detailed examination so far, which included enhancement of the examination of vascular factors.
Evaluation at age 70 allowed a study of factors associated with cognitive change from childhood to old age. PDHCT funding for additional evaluation at age 73 has shed further light on this and, importantly, has enabled study of cognitive change within old age itself. PDHCT funding has supported demographic, medical, cognitive and other biological testing, and some genetic testing. Crucially, it allowed to addition of vascular factors such as ankle brachial index (associated with atherosclerotic status), carotid artery stenosis, and retinal vessel topography (allowing a series of proxy measures of the efficiency of the brainâ€™s blood supply).
All the data gathering planned under the Award was completed on time, with an emphasis on the collection of information about vascular risk factors. This wave of testing at age 73 has led to a series of research papers that have already been published or are currently being prepared for publication in high quality scientific journals including: Neurobiology of Ageing,Â Psychosomatic Medicine,Â andÂ BMC Blood Disorders.
These peer-reviewed scientific reports are ensuring that the results of the PDHCT Award are widely disseminated to collaborators in The Disconnected Mind project and other scientists worldwide, to Age UK. As studies accumulate from the LBC1936 the intention is to inform professionals in health and social care disciplines. The aim is to provide high quality scientific information that will ultimately help to improve the quality of life for older people in the UK and beyond.