Life Begins At » New study needs you!
Health

New study needs you!

More than 9,600 Australians aged 50-and over are being called upon to put up their hand and participate in a new Victorian study, designed to detect the earliest possible signs of dementia in healthy adults.

The new ‘Trajectory-Related Early Alzheimer’s Database (TREAD) Study’ from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health aims to screen a total of 10,000 healthy community-dwellers for memory decline over, at least, the next three years.

Using internet-delivered computerised cognitive tests, the research will detect signs of dementia even before significant symptoms get noticed, as well as memory decline that is not related to dementia.

Behavioural neurologist from The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Associate Professor David Darby, said the study rests on the principle that “through earlier detection, earlier treatment might be a solution”.

“Our idea is for future online screening which will be so cost effective that people can test through their local doctors on a regular basis or in their own homes.”

The research project will be run in partnership with the University of Melbourne, CogState, Austin Health and Alzheimer’s Australia Vic.

“The computerised cognitive test is designed to measure change over time,” A/Prof Darby said. “It’s not to measure Alzheimer’s but memory decline.

“And the reason for that is that one of the earliest changes [in a person with] Alzheimer’s disease is a decline in memory even 20 years before the first signs of Alzheimer’s. There’s been a lot of work to develop memory tests to detect subtle changes in memory.

A/Prof Darby said he expects the study’s results will also challenge “commonly held wisdom that everyone declines as they get older, which is not quite right”.

“If someone has pathology or morbidity, they are likely to decline. But there is also a group of very lucky, ‘super healthy’ older people who don’t decline.

Once decline has been demonstrated in a research participant, A/Prof Darby said, the team will conduct other tests that “drug companies need to conduct trials” in order to help promote the development of plausible treatments for dementia.

How can you help?

Launched just before Christmas 2012, the study is only in its early stages but so far, has attracted 400 interested volunteers.

“The project offers an opportunity to members of the community aged 50 and over to monitor cognitive changes in their memory and thinking over a minimum period of three years,” A/Prof Darby said.

Participants will be asked to perform online tests at regular intervals over several years.

These tests include game-like playing card tasks independent of language to measure a person’s speed and accuracy.

The tests were developed to be user-friendly, simple and brief, and were scientifically validated to compare the person’s own performances over time and thereby detect whether there memory is declining.

Participation will be conducted online without the need to attend a clinic or research facility. The study is open to volunteers in the vicinity of Melbourne who are computer literate.

“Participants will retest every month for six months and every three months thereafter. Anyone who is detected to have significant memory decline will be offered more detailed medical assessment.”

“The future is very bright for finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease but we need volunteers to participate in research at an early stage in the disease to also prove that medications can work.”

Registrations of interest in participating in the project are now open.

To participate in the study or for more information, visit http://tread.florey.edu.au/