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Nearly $1 mil in grants to be shared among 12 dementia research projects

A research project that will develop culturally appropriate assessments for people living with dementia in the Torres Strait is among 11 other dementia projects that will receive a share of nearly $1 million in grants to conduct ground-breaking dementia research.

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The grant was awarded by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation (DARF) to support researchers aiming to improve dementia through research in Australia. [Source: iStock]

The grant was awarded by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation (DARF), the research branch of the peak body for dementia, Dementia Australia. Last year, $1.7 million in funding was allocated to support Post-doctoral Fellowships and project grants. 

University of Queensland researcher, Dr Leander Mitchell, was awarded $75,000 from this grant to develop tools to measure depression and anxiety in people living with dementia in the Torres Strait.

"Rates of dementia are almost three times higher in Torres Strait communities than the wider population and rates of depression and anxiety are also higher in First Nations populations," explains Dr Mitchell. 

"Thinking and memory problems can be present in all of these conditions but without accurate information, it can be difficult to work out whether symptoms are due to dementia or a psychological disorder.

"Whilst clinicians have a range of assessment tools for use in the general community, there are no culturally appropriate measures for use in the Torres Strait – this increases the risk of getting the diagnosis wrong, which can result in people getting the wrong treatment for the wrong condition.

"These tools have to be acceptable to Torres Strait people and also measure depression and anxiety accurately – doctors and health workers can then use these tools when assessing someone with thinking and memory problems to help them work out if the person has dementia or a psychological disorder and therefore what treatment is needed."

This project will be undertaken by researchers from the University of Queensland and James Cook University, and is funded in partnership with the Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration.

Professor Graeme Samuel AC, Chair of the DARF, said the grants provide a valuable opportunity to researchers who wanted to make a difference in the field of dementia.

"We are investing in the next generation of Australian researchers who will be among those tackling some of the biggest challenges in this field,” says Prof Samuel.

"These grants, which form part of $1.7 million in funding allocated last year, are highly competitive and sought after in the research sector, and provide vital insights into reducing dementia risk, improving accurate and timely diagnoses and establishing treatment and care options for people who live with dementia.

"Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people living with dementia is expected to increase to almost 1.1 million by 2058. Research into dementia is now more urgent than ever.

"It is also promising to see so much diversity in research topics of our grant recipients from across Australia, including research into dementia-friendly eyecare, a neuroprotective signal that may help retain healthy brain cell activity, and reducing the risk of dementia in people with obstructive sleep apnoea."

The 12 projects that have received this funding include:

  • Dr Aisling Smyth from Edith Cowan University - Developing a sleep intervention for caregivers of people living with dementia

  • Dr Janet Van Eersel from Macquarie University - Preclinical development of specific tau-binding compounds to target underlying disease mechanisms for the treatment of dementia

  • Dr Dhanisha Jhaveri from the University of Queensland - Cholinergic regulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis and cognitive functions

  • Dr Lei Qian from the University of Queensland - Mechanism and potential treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea induced Alzheimer’s pathology

  • Dr Arne Ittner from Flinders University - A neuroprotective signalling axis in Alzheimer’s disease

  • Dr Marianne Coleman from the University of Melbourne - Breaking down barriers to accessing dementia friendly eyecare

  • Dr Deborah Brooks from the Queensland University of Technology - Bridging the support void: Can the Residential Care Transition Module improve the psychological health of family carers during the residential care placement process in Australia? 

  • Dr Leander Mitchell from the University of Queensland - Developing culturally appropriate assessments for people with dementia living in the Torres Strait 

  • Dr Kirsten Moore from the National Ageing Research Institute - Creative caring: promoting a balanced view of caring for someone with dementia 

  • Dr Suraj Samtani from UNSW Sydney - A novel social cognition intervention for older adults with cognitive impairment: Co-design and pilot study 

  • Dr Linda Steele from the University of Technology Sydney - Redressing neglect and abuse of people living with dementia in residential aged care 

  • Dr Simone Reppermund from UNSW Sydney - Self-harm in people with dementia – using big data to improve outcomes and inform strategies to prevent self-harm and suicide

  • Dr Sonam Parakh from Macquarie University - Defining the role of nuclear proteostasis in the pathogenesis of frontotemporal dementia (FTD)

To view the full research projects that have received this grant money, head to the Dementia Australia website.

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