Louise Lavrencic

RESEARCHER PROFILE

Research Assistant

9399 1619


Louise has a background in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, and undertook a PhD at the University of South Australia. Her previous research focussed on cognitive reserve in older adults, and how this relates to brain structure and function. Louise has experience with electroencephalography (EEG) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques.

Louise is passionate about understanding the factors that affect cognitive ageing and dementia in late life, and how we can help people to age well. Louise works across a number of projects being run by the Aboriginal Health and Ageing Team, but is particularly involved in a neuroimaging study investigating dementia in Aboriginal Australians.

Projects Louise Lavrencic is currently involved with

CURRENT PROJECTS

Koori Active and Healthy Ageing Project

“Healthy ageing is your mind staying young” – Koori Growing Old Well Study participant

 

Healthy Ageing calls for cognitively, physically and socially active lifestyles. The current project seeks to recognise existing community strengths but work to enhance participation and engagement, provide new resources specific to healthy ageing and develop an accessible platform for rolling out this intervention to diverse older people and communities, enabling widespread benefit. We will trial a cutting-edge approach to advance healthy ageing with implications for many Australians to benefit, particularly older Aboriginal people.

The project examines how to implement evidence based healthy ageing programs in urban and regional Aboriginal communities. Elders play a vital role in Indigenous communities, providing leadership, caring for family, and transmitting cultural knowledge and practices. However, the health, well-being and quality of life of the increasing numbers of older Indigenous people, are threatened by high rates of dementia, falls and depression. Novel culturally-safe approaches are needed to better engage and support Indigenous peoples in terms of healthy ageing. This research will develop and evaluate effective, culturally appropriate, and accessible strategies to promote healthy ageing in Aboriginal communities. It will also investigate whether and how resilience related to social and cultural cohesion can protect well-being in Indigenous communities.

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Koori Active and Healthy Ageing Project

Koori Growing Old Well Study

The primary aim of a proposed longitudinal study is to find the reasons for the high dementia rates (three times non-Indigenous rates) in urban/regional Aboriginal people.

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Koori Growing Old Well Study

Caring for Spirit

The Caring for Spirit project is focused on providing a centralised online source of evidence-based resources and information that are culturally appropriate and appealing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The team is translating the results of current research into culturally relevant and accessible information, education and training for people living with dementia, their families and carers, as well as for Aboriginal Health Workers.

We have engaged the services of Aboriginal staff, consultants, and graphic and website designers to achieve the appropriate look and feel. Community engagement and approval is essential and we are working with our Aboriginal community partners across NSW, as well as through our diverse networks to ensure national impact. Advice and feedback from these partners will be used to refine the resources. Growing old well is something we all want for our communities, but we also know that many things happen in our lives that could influence this process. A diagnosis of dementia can have an influence on our mind, body and spirit. This project is focused on translating the results of current research to keep our mind, body and spirit well, through education and training. This is important for people living with dementia, their families and carers, as well as for Aboriginal Health Workers. It is anticipated that these resources will contribute to enhancing the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their carers who are living with dementia, and contribute to alleviating the high burden of dementia in this population.

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Caring for Spirit

Sharing the Wisdom of our Elders

The project, Sharing the Wisdom of Our Elders, comes in response to research highlighting the limited awareness of ageing and dementia across Aboriginal communities and requests from partnering communities (as part of the Koori Growing Old Well Study) for a strengths-focused and Aboriginal specific teaching resource to increase community knowledge of dementia prevention. This project acknowledges the central role that Elders have in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Communities, and the role that art has in representing their stories and traditions.

This project is funded by The Lowitja Institute (2018-2019), and focuses on the theme of Strong Elders and responds to the question: “what is good and healthy ageing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?” In the Koori Growing Old Well Study, participants were asked to described what they have learnt, throughout their lifetime and diverse experiences, is important for growing old well. This project will represent the responses of Elders in artwork and stories.

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Sharing the Wisdom of our Elders

RESEARCH TEAM

PUBLICATIONS

Is There a Link Between Cognitive Reserve and Cognitive Function in the Oldest-Old?

Lavrencic LM, Richardson C, Harrison SL, Muniz-Terrera G, Keage HAD, Brittain K, Kirkwood TBL, Jagger C, Robinson L, Stephan BCM

In the oldest-old, higher reserve associated with better baseline global and domain-specific cognitive function and reduced risk of prevalent dementia; but not cognitive decline or incident dementia. Increasing reserve could promote cognitive function in the oldest-old. The results suggest there would be little impact on trajectories, but replication is needed. Development of preventative strategies would benefit from identifying the role of each factor in building reserve and why rate of change is not affected.

Cognitive reserve is not associated with improved performance in all cognitive domains.

Lavrencic LM, Churches OF, Keage HAD

Cognitive reserve beneficially affects cognitive performance, even into advanced age. However, the benefits afforded by high cognitive reserve may not extend to all cognitive domains. This study investigated whether cognitive reserve differentially affects performance on cognitive tasks, in 521 cognitively healthy individuals aged 60 to 98 years (Mage = 68, SD = 6.22, 287 female); years of education was used to index cognitive reserve. Cognitive performance variables assessed attention, executive functions, verbal memory, motor performance, orientation, perception of emotion, processing speed, and working memory. Bootstrapped regression analyses revealed that cognitive reserve was associated with attention, executive functions, verbal and working memory, and orientation; and not significantly related to emotion perception, processing speed, or motor performance. Cognitive reserve appears to differentially affect individual cognitive domains, which extends current theory that purports benefits for all domains. This finding highlights the possibility of using tests not (or minimally) associated with cognitive reserve, to screen for cognitive impairment and dementia in late life; these tests will likely best track brain health, free of compensatory neural mechanisms.

What Box: A task for assessing language lateralization in young children.

Badcock NA, Spooner R, Hofmann J, Flitton A, Elliott S, Kurylowicz L, Lavrencic LM, Payne HM, Holt GK, Holden A, Churches OF, Kohler MJ, Keage HAD

The assessment of active language lateralization in infants and toddlers is challenging. It requires an imaging tool that is unintimidating, quick to setup, and robust to movement, in addition to an engaging and cognitively simple language processing task. Functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound (fTCD) offers a suitable technique and here we report on a suitable method to elicit active language production in young children. The 34-second "What Box" trial presents an animated face "searching" for an object. The face "finds" a box that opens to reveal a to-be-labelled object. In a sample of 95 children (1 to 5 years of age), 81% completed the task-32% with ≥10 trials. The task was validated (ρ = 0.4) against the gold standard Word Generation task in a group of older adults (n = 65, 60-85 years of age), though was less likely to categorize lateralization as left or right, indicative of greater measurement variability. Existing methods for active language production have been used with 2-year-old children while passive listening has been conducted with sleeping 6-month-olds. This is the first active method to be successfully employed with infants through to pre-schoolers, forming a useful tool for populations in which complex instructions are problematic.

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