NeuRA Magazine #25

Feature story

AGEING WELL FOR LIFE

Professor Kaarin Anstey

Understanding risk factors around dementia with Professor Kaarin Anstey

“Waiting until your 60s and thinking,
‘I don’t want to get dementia’ isn’t a great plan,” says Professor Kaarin Anstey.

We think about our superannuation before retirement, so why don’t we do the same with dementia? Almost one in 10 Australians aged over 65 have dementia; by age 85, the prevalence increases to one in three. It was once thought that dementia was a late-life disease that could not be prevented. But we now know that we can do a lot to reduce our risk.

You really have to be thinking about protecting your brain across all age groups of your life. It can be hard to think about being 80 when you are only 40 but creating an ageing well life-plan ahead of retirement will support you and your family in the years to come.

Research has shown that there are actions you can take now to reduce your risk of dementia, and these need to be incorporated into your healthy living plan as early as possible.

It’s predicted that there will be almost one million Australians with dementia by 2050 and 10 times as many family members and friends suffering indirectly from its effects. It’s never too late to start your ageing well plan.

There is so much we can all do to age well. Start by watching our Ageing Well for Life seminar series online at www.neuratalks.org

The seminar series, led by Professor Kaarin Anstey, Senior Principal Research Scientist at NeuRA and global leader in dementia and ageing research, takes you through the simple steps you can take to age well and reduce your risk of dementia.

Cognitive activity is important

We know from lots of research that people who do more stimulating activities throughout their life have better brain function and a lower chance of developing dementia.  

A cognitive activity is an activity that challenges our perception, attention, memory, reasons and problem-solving abilities. There is a wide range of cognitive activities, some of them involve everyday activities like reading a book, and others challenge our mind like puzzles or crosswords. Scientists think that such activities may protect the brain by establishing ‘cognitive reserve’. 

When our ‘cognitive lifestyle’ doesn’t have enough cognitive activities then we are more likely to have problems with our thinking and memory and be at risk of age-related diseases (like dementia). Even if you have not been cognitively active so far, starting today may still have a large impact on dementia risk. 

See what’s going on at NeuRA

FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

Caress the Detail: A Comprehensive MRI Atlas of the in Vivo Human Brain

This project aims to deliver the most comprehensive, detailed and stereotaxically accurate MRI atlas of the canonical human brain. In human neuroscience, researchers and clinicians almost always investigate images obtained from living individuals. Yet, there is no satisfactory MRI atlas of the human brain in vivo or post-mortem. There are some population-based atlases, which valiantly solve a number of problems, but they fail to address major needs. Most problematically, they segment only a small number of brain structures, typically about 50, and they are of limited value for the interpretation of a single subject/patient. In contrast to population-based approaches, the present project will investigate normal, living subjects in detail. We aim to define approximately 800 structures, as in the histological atlas of Mai, Majtanik and Paxinos (2016), and, thus, provide a “gold standard” for science and clinical practice. We will do this by obtaining high-resolution MRI at 3T and 7T of twelve subjects through a collaboration with Markus Barth from the Centre for Advanced Imaging at the University of Queensland (UQ). The limited number of subjects will allow us to image each for longer periods, obtaining higher resolution and contrast, and to invest the required time to produce unprecedented detail in segmentation. We will produce an electronic atlas for interpreting MR images, both as a tablet application and as an online web service. The tablet application will provide a convenient and powerful exegesis of brain anatomy for researchers and clinicians. The open access web service will additionally provide images, segmentation and anatomical templates to be used with most common MR-analysis packages (e.g., SPM, FSL, MINC, BrainVoyager). This will be hosted in collaboration with UQ, supporting and complementing their population-based atlas.
PROJECT