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ForeFront Healthy Brain Ageing Research Group

Finding new ways to prevent cognitive decline in older adults

We estimate that by 2050 more than 1 million people in Australia will be living with dementia. To prevent this health crisis, our researchers aim to find effective methods to prevent or slow cognitive decline in older people.

The ForeFront Healthy Brain Ageing research group aims to determine whether changes in vascular risk factors, mood, sleep and lifestyle can effectively reduce cognitive decline, symptoms of depression and dementia-related brain changes in later life.

The number of Australians aged over 85 is predicted to almost double by 2050. This means the incidence of dementia and other age-related illnesses, including depression, is expected to place unprecedented burdens on the healthcare system.

A unique approach to prevention

Our research program is focused on preventing or slowing the rate of cognitive decline in people who are at risk of developing dementia.

Research shows that mood, sleep and lifestyle factors (such as exercise, diet and cognitive activity), as well as vascular conditions (including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol), can contribute to cognitive decline and depression in later life.

Our research targets these modifiable risk factors by providing early identification, intervention and prevention programs for people at risk for dementia. Through the ForeFront Healthy Brain Ageing Research Clinic, our multifaceted team of neurologists, geriatricians, sleep physicians, clinical neuropsychologists, general physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, exercise physiologists, dietitians, nutritionists, research assistants and students work together to evaluate the effects of interventions designed to modify these risk factors in older adults.

Prevention is better than the cure. We have no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. We have no cure for all the other types of dementia. We need to focus on reducing cognitive decline, depression and underlying brain changes that are associated with dementia as early as we can.
Professor Sharon Naismith, Clinical Neuropsychologist and Chief Investigator of the ForeFront Healthy Brain Ageing program

Targeting risk factors

Our research evaluates various clinical interventions, including: brain-training programs to prevent cognitive impairment; group-based psycho-education programs to improve sleep disturbance; home-based exercise programs for people with early-stage dementia; and developing internet-based tools to improve health and wellbeing, reduce depression and minimise vascular risk factors.

We have conducted trials of dietary supplements to prevent and slow cognitive decline and depressive symptoms. We are also working closely with the Neurosleep Clinic to trial sleep interventions such as controlled napping and sleep-apnoea treatments to reduce cognitive decline.

Our studies focus on identifying whether targeting these modifiable risk factors can reduce the underlying brain changes associated with dementia.

Learn more about our clinical trials

Research spotlight featuring Professor Sharon Naismith