Senior Principal Research Scientist
Kaarin Anstey is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Scientia Professor at UNSW, and a Senior Principal Research Scientist at NeuRA. She is Director of the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute, leads an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cognitive Health, is a director of the NHMRC Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration and Co-Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research. Kaarin conducts public health research into dementia risk reduction ranging from analysis of cohort studies, development of risk assessment tools, and conducting risk reduction trials. A second focus is on older driver risk assessment and safety. Kaarin leads the PATH Through Life Project, a large cohort study focusing on common mental disorders and cognitive function. She chairs the International Research Network on Dementia Prevention and is a member of the Governance Committee of the Global Council on Brain Health, an initiative supported by the American Association of Retired Persons.
High blood pressure is related to the development of cerebral small vessel disease, retinal microvascular abnormalities, eye diseases (e.g. cataract and glaucoma), reduced visual acuity, and dementia. Cerebral small vessel disease, retinal microvascular abnormalities, eye diseases and vision are also related to the risk of dementia. Moreover, socioeconomic inequalities are related to blood pressure and dementia and may consequently shape the associations between blood pressure and risk of cerebral small vessel disease, retinal microvascular abnormalities, eye diseases and dementia.
To date, there is no study investigating the indirect effects of cerebral small vessel disease, retinal microvascular abnormalities, eye diseases and vision impairment on dementia or cognitive decline and no study evaluating the influence of different socioeconomic indicators on these associations.
Currently, there is no effective treatment for dementia, highlighting the urgent need to preventing more cases through evidence-based strategies for risk reduction. As there is an overlap between the risk factors for dementia and other preventable non-communicable diseases including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease, it is important to build upon proven risk-reduction strategies.
What is LEAD?
LEAD! is a project funded by the NHMRC Boosting Dementia Research Grant led by Professor Kaarin Anstey. It involves an international collaboration between leading academics, clinicians, consumers, and community members. Organisations involved include the Department of Health, WHO, Dementia Australia, Alzheimer’s Disease International, Diabetes Australia, and Heart Foundation.
The project aims to translate dementia research and implement evidence-based strategies for dementia risk reduction to individuals, communities, and healthcare centres.
The project has three concurrent workstreams over five years: Development, Implementation, and Evaluation and adoption.
The Development stream, led by Professor Kaarin Anstey and Associate Professor Peters, focuses on building a new tool for predicting dementia and other non-communicable diseases including stroke, diabetes or myocardial infarction. The tool will be available to the public, researchers and clinicians. It will save clinical assessment time, accurately predict multiple outcomes and will be more acceptable in comparison to using individual tools for each disease outcome.
The Implementation stream led by Professor Nicola Lautenschalger’s team at the University of Melbourne, will develop strategies to support the implementation of dementia risk reduction evidence by engaging with consumers, clinicians, policy makers, and the public. The stream will develop strategies for incorporating the new risk assessment tool into various technological platforms (e.g., websites or apps).
The Evaluation and adoption stream, led by Professor Anstey and in collaboration with Professor Louisa Jorm and Dr Heidi Welberry at UNSW, focuses on measuring trajectories of Australian’s national risk factor profiles for multiple chronic diseases. Collaboration with key stakeholders including the WHO will help build an evaluation framework and methodology for implementing evidence on dementia risk reduction based on WHO guidelines at national level and in the global context.
Evidence related to dementia risk factors continues to increase with advancement in study methodology and more research being published in the field of dementia prevention. WHO guidelines for risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia has published the latest evidence on the risk factors in mid and late life. There is a need of a new risk assessment tool that can be used both in population and clinical settings which would incorporate the latest evidence for the risk factors of dementia.
What is CogDrisk?
The CogDrisk project led by Professor Kaarin Anstey at NeuRA. The project aims to develop and validate a new risk assessment tool for assessing individual exposure to risk factors known to be associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. The tool will be developed from risk estimates selected from latest systematic reviews and meta-analyses. External validation of the tool will be carried out using five high standard international cohorts for discrimination and accuracy of predicting dementia cases.
Who will use the CogDrisk?
The assessment tool will be available online to the public, researchers and clinicians. Individuals aged 18 years and above can take the assessment to assess their risk of developing dementia, get a risk profile, and recommendations to reduce their risk of developing dementia. A risk score along with recommendations to reduce their dementia risk will be provided to individuals aged 60 years and above.
What are the benefits of the CogDrisk?
Those who are interested to take the assessment (anyone over the age of 18 years) can do so at a time convenient to them and can redo the assessment later to see if they changed their risk of developing dementia.
Researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and University of New South Wales (UNSW) are inviting people who have noticed changes in their memory or thinking, or have a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), to participate in a voluntary research trial investigating dementia risk reduction.
What is the MyCoach Trial about?
This research aims to test the effectiveness of a healthy lifestyle intervention designed to support healthy brain ageing and reduce dementia risk. The course is tailored for people experiencing changes or concerns in thinking, memory or cognition. The intervention will run for 12 weeks, and the study will also involve a 13-week, 6-month and 1-year follow-up interview (more information below).
What is involved in this research trial?
Interested volunteers will complete an eligibility screening to confirm this study is a good match. Next, volunteers will be randomised into one of two groups: MyCoach Intervention or Email information. To ensure the research is fair and unbiased, the group is chosen randomly – like pulling names from a hat.
You may be eligible to participate in the MyCoach Trial if you:
Expressions of interest
If you are interested, or know someone who might be, please register below or contact us directly on 02 9399 1853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research investigating the impacts of cognitive behavioural therapy and balance programs on fear of falling, funded by Mindgardens.
Falls and fear of falling affect many older people and can impose limitations upon daily activities. Over one third of community dwelling older people fall each year with about 15% of falls being injurious. However, two thirds of older people express a fear of falling during common daily activities, making it more common than falls itself. Fear of falling has been associated with needless restriction in physical and social activities, and subsequent deterioration of health and wellbeing.
Previous research has suggested that fear of falling can be reduced through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and balance exercise programs. However, these face-to-face treatments are resource intensive and not readily accessible to people. Furthermore, the effects of these treatments on fear of falling are small and often do not last beyond the duration of the program.
By utilising technology and providing tailored physical activity guidance we are aiming to reduce a fear of falling in an accessible, efficient and lasting way.
A thee-arm randomised clinical trial will be conducted in 189 community-dwelling older adults with a substantial concern of falling. Participants will be randomly allocated into one of three groups in order to test whether a self-managed CBT intervention, alone or in combination with a graded balance activity program, can reduce concerns about falling in older adults when compared to usual care.
We are collaborating with the Black Dog institute to provide a home-based cognitive behavioural therapy program that addresses a fear of falling. We will also be utilising our cutting-edge balance program StandingTall to provide a graded balance program.
Dr Kim Kiely (Lead Investigator) and Professor Kaarin Anstey (Co-investigator)
Australians are living longer and expected to work for longer than ever before. It is critical that additional years of life are at least matched by the increase in the years lived in good health, and that gains in healthy ageing are experienced across all sectors of society. There is also a great need to balance older adults’ capacity and opportunity to work with societal pressures to delay retirement.
The objective of this three-year project is to better understand individual and societal determinants that underlie variation in healthy ageing. We will identify characteristics that are tied to the years that older adults are able to engage in productive activities and live independently in good health. To achieve this, advanced health expectancy estimation methods are being used to analyse newly available mortality records that have been linked to national longitudinal survey data. These analyses will produce new, refined, estimates for Australia of ‘healthy life expectancy’ with ‘working life expectancy’. We will examine how these differ across sociodemographic strata, change over time, and compare internationally.
The project is funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project (DP190100459).
After receiving a diagnosis of dementia it is very important that individuals and families have access to support and advice, to help people regain control, plan for the future and carry on living a life that is meaningful to them.
The ‘SHAPE’ research study is a multi-site trial, working in collaboration with Norway and the UK. This study aims to test a new online training and support group for people in the early stages of dementia and e-leaning programme for care partners.
What does the study involve?
Participants will be randomly allocated to either the (a) intervention or (b) control group of the research study.
a) The intervention group: People with dementia will be invited to an online training and support group, comprising of 10 weekly online sessions, each lasting up to 2 hours. During the group, people will be supported to develop skills in areas including decision-making, symptom management, healthy habits adapting and coping. Care partners will receive an e-learning program following similar themes with some additional support.
b) The control group: Like with a lot of research studies, some participants will be randomised to the control group, which means they will not receive the intervention from our research team. However, after study completion, both participants and families can receive the e-learning course comprising of the educational material used in the group.
All participants and care partners will also be asked to attend 3 assessment sessions to answer questionnaires relating to health and wellbeing.
What are the benefits of this study?
We hope that your participation in this study will provide you and your care partner with more information on dementia and strategies to make positive changes to health and wellbeing. Some participants might also benefit from the social aspects of attending an online group session, such as sharing and listening to different strategies to promote living well with dementia. Additionally, the information gained from this research study could positively direct future research as well as influence the support offered to people in the early stages of dementia and their support network.
SHAPE groups have been running for the past few months and participants have contributed with enthusiasm and engagement:
‘Joining the SHAPE group each week helped me understand how important it is to have fun in life, exercise regularly and read more books. I learned so much about dementia and feel more confident sharing my experience with my family.’
This study may be suited to you if:
If you are interested in hearing more about the study, please fill out the form below or contact us directly on 02 9399 1116 or email@example.com.
For further information about this research study, please contact us on:
Jana Koch (Research Assistant)
Phone: (02) 9399 1116
This research study is funded by The National Health and Medical Research Council. This study has been approved by UNSW human research ethics committee, reference number: HC190440.
The Personality and Total Health (PATH) Through Life Project is co-hosted by the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales and has been led by Professor Anstey since 2006. It is a large on-going population-based longitudinal cohort study comprising approximately 7500 participants. The study includes three cohorts including a younger (aged 20–24 at baseline), midlife (aged 40–44 at baseline) and older (aged 60–64 at baseline) adults randomly sampled from the electoral roll of the ACT and the nearby city of Queanbeyan. Additional waves of data collection have occurred in 4-year increments, with the 5th wave of data collection underway. The study involves many national and international collaborations.
The broad aims of the PATH study relate to clinical outcomes that constitute the major burden of disease within the Australian community.
Primary PATH Objectives:
Several design features of the PATH project contribute to its unique standing among population-based longitudinal cohort studies.
This project has been funded primarily by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Wave 5 40s and 60s follow-ups (led by Professor Kaarin Anstey) are funded by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research.
For more information, please visit the study website at www.pathstudy.org.au. PATH participants can also contact the research team by phone on 1300 917 295.
Older adults represent a growing sector of the driving population in Australia, and while driving can be important for maintaining social engagement in late life, age-related changes such as cognitive and visual impairment can impact on driving safety.
The Driving, Ageing, Safety and Health (DASH) project is designed to develop and validate screening measures for older drivers to support determinations of driving safety. The DASH project is a collaboration with Joanne Wood and the Queensland University of Technology.
Over 550 older drivers, across three groups, were followed for two years to evaluate how well laboratory assessments and an on-road test predict driving outcomes. The three groups included a) older drivers referred for assessment by GPs and Road Safety Authorities, b) older drivers with eye disease and c) older drivers drawn from the community.
Findings from this research project will enable health professionals and licensing authorities to assist in their decision-making regarding the fitness to drive of older adults.
DASH is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Driving is critical for enabling mobility and community participation in older Australians, with over 90% of those aged in their 70s being licensed drivers. There is an urgent need for evidence-based methods for enhancing and maintaining older drivers’ skills – methods that are ready for translation into cost-effective and practical interventions.
The Better Drive Trial is a three-arm randomised controlled trial that assesses the effectiveness of different driver education types on safety outcomes for older adults. The relative effectiveness of tailored lessons, road-rule workshops and feedback on older drivers on road safety will be assessed in over 384 participants over 2 years. If effective, interventions will improve driving safety, reduce costs associated with crashes, and maintain social participation.
Our multidisciplinary team has expertise in cognitive ageing, psychology, occupational therapy, behaviour change and injury prevention, and proven records of designing and implementing RCTs of behavioural interventions for improving safety in older adults. The outcomes of the project will lead to the development of community programs for older drivers that seek to maintain mobility and community participation.
The Better Drive Trial is funded by the NHMRC and is expected to run for 5 years.
A growing number of modifiable risk and preventative factors for dementia have been identified. Primary care offers a natural setting for the identification of those who may be at particular risk and who may subsequently benefit most from risk reduction interventions.
The Body, Brain, Life – General Practice (BBL-GP) project – a continuation of the original Body Brain Life study – evaluates the efficacy of lifestyle management programs for reducing risk profiles for dementia in adults recruited from primary care. The project compares three different interventions: a BBL-GP intervention designed to reduce the risk of cognitive decline, a Lifestyle Modification Program (LMP) designed to enhance general wellbeing and improve lifestyle to reduce risk of chronic disease, and an Active Control condition. A total of 120 adults participated in the trial.
The BBL-GP intervention group completed eight online e-learning modules designed to improve dementia literacy, knowledge of risk factors, physical activity, nutrition, health, cognitive activity, social activity and mood. This group also received tailored face-to-face physical activity and nutrition sessions. Participants in the LMP group participated in group sessions on basic nutrition, meal planning, physical activity, health conditions, motivation and goals, medications and sleep. The Active Control group received weekly emails with links to information regarding lifestyle risk factors and disease management.
Outcomes were assessed immediately following the intervention, 18-weeks post-intervention, and 36-weeks post-intervention. The final follow-up at 62-weeks post-intervention is due to be completed in mid-2018. A cost evaluation of the two interventions will also be completed.
Read more about the BBL-GP protocol here.
The BBL-GP project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence in Cognitive Health.
The ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) is a unique collaboration bringing together academia, government and industry to address one of the major social challenges of the twenty first century. Based at the University of New South Wales with nodes at the Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney and The University of Western Australia, CEPAR is producing world-class research on population ageing. CEPAR includes cross-disciplinary experts drawn from actuarial science, demography, economics, epidemiology, psychology and sociology. The Centre’s diverse research program which will deliver comprehensive outcomes with the potential to secure Australia’s future as a well-informed nation with world-best policy and practice for an ageing demographic.
Professor Anstey and Professor Mike Keane lead the CEPAR research stream concerned with decision making, expectations and cognitive ageing.
This research stream aims to:
For more information on CEPAR visit the centre website.
CEPAR has been funded primarily by the Australian Research Council, with generous support from the collaborating universities and partner organisations.
The NHMRC Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration (DCRC) was established in 2006 under the Australian Government’s Dementia Initiative. DCRC projects are diverse and map onto the priorities of the NHMRC National Network for Dementia Research (NNIDR). A key focus is applied research on topics meaningful to people with dementia and their family carers.
There are three DCRC hubs located at UNSW, NeuRA and QUT, respectively. The three-hub framework aims to grow partnerships and strengthen ties with consumers and service providers, Dementia Training Australia and Dementia Support Australia in order to progress prevention, assessment, care and translation of knowledge into everyday practice, as well as building the next generation of dementia researchers.
The primary focus of the DCRC NeuRA hub is risk reduction and prevention including individual, community and population-based interventions targeting lifestyle risk factors for dementia.
The flagship project of the DCRC NeuRA hub is the International Research Network on Dementia Prevention (IRNDP). Founded in 2017, the IRNDP is a multinational network bringing together researchers who are working to reduce the risk of dementia across the world. For more information on the network, visit the IRNDP website, including news and updates, an evidence hub on cohort studies, an evidence synthesis on clinical trials, and information on how to join.
The DCRC is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The Centre of Research Excellence in Cognitive Health focuses on the integrally linked areas of optimising cognitive health and the prevention of cognitive decline.
The centre aims to:
The CRE Cognitive Health led by Professor Kaarin Anstey is a collaboration between Chief and Associate Investigators from the Australian National University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Australian Catholic University, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and University of Exeter.
The CRE Cognitive Health is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Globally, dementia cases are increasing at a rate of 21 per cent annually, and most of these are occurring in low to middle-income countries. With no cure for neurodegeneration or the diseases that cause dementia, there is an urgent need to link both knowledge translation and researchers more closely together in a global effort to tackle prevention more effectively.
Founded in 2017, the International Research Network on Dementia Prevention (IRNDP) is a multinational network bringing together researchers who are working to reduce the risk of dementia across the world.
IRNDP aims to:
The goals of the IRNDP have particular relevance in low- to middle-income (LMIC) countries as exposure to lifestyle and clinical risk factors becomes more common as LMIC economies grow.
While there are many current overlapping public health, patient, research, policy and practice initiatives aimed at prevention or treatment of dementia, IRNDP is the first single collaborative network of researchers to focus attention on prevention that is truly global.
IRNDP is chaired by Professor Kaarin Anstey and is a project of the Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration funded by the NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research (NNIDR).
The Dementia Risk Factors and Assessment (DemRisk) program involves over ten years of research performed by the Anstey group on the identification and assessment of risk factors for Dementia.
The DemRisk program includes:
Read Professor Kaarin Anstey and Dr Ruth Peters’ recent invited commentary on second-hand smoke as an under-recognised risk factor for cognitive decline here. You can also watch Professor Anstey’s NeuRAtalk on ageing well to reduce your risk of dementia here.
For many older adults, driving is essential for independence and participation in life. However, ageing is associated with a range of physical, sensory, and cognitive changes, some of which can influence driving safety. Neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia can progress very gradually, and regular monitoring is required to identify the point at which driving becomes unsafe. Current methods of monitoring road safety for older drivers relies on regular reviews with doctors or expensive and stressful driving tests. These methods are resource intensive and inefficient. Thus, there is a need for more cost-effective and less invasive ways of monitoring road safety for older drivers. The Changing Memory, Technology and Driving study (MemTech) will investigate whether a dashboard camera and a GPS data logger can be used to accurately measure changes in safety during an older driver’s everyday driving trips. The study will involve older drivers who are experiencing changes in their thinking and memory or early stages of dementia, as well as older drivers without any cognitive difficulties. This will allow data to be compared across the two groups to determine whether the in-vehicle GPS devices can detect changes in driver safety associated with cognitive change. If it can, this will provide valuable research data for the future development of accurate in-vehicle monitoring systems for older driver safety.
This research is being funded by the Office of Road Safety.
If you would like to take part in this research study, please contact
Ms Abirami Raveendran
Phone: (02) 9399 1058
DR NIKKI-ANNE WILSON
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Cognitive Health and Knowledge Translation
: 02 9399 1126
Project Manager (PATH Through Life Project), UNSW Canberra
: 1300 917 295 (PATH)
DR SOPHIE ANDREWS
Senior Research Fellow – DECRA, UNSW Psychology
: 9399 1076
: 9399 1021
This study aims to evaluate a multidomain dementia risk reduction intervention, Body Brain Life in General Practice (BBL-GP), targeting at-risk adults in primary care. A web-based multidomain dementia risk reduction program augmented with allied health consultations administered within the general practice context can reduce dementia risk exposure for at least 15 months. This study was limited by a small sample size, and replication on a larger sample with longer follow-up will strengthen the results.
To validate 8 off-road brief screening tests to predict on-road driving ability and to identify which combination of these provides the best prediction of older adults who will not pass an on-road driving test. These findings suggest that off-road screening tests can reliably identify older drivers with a strong probability of failing an on-road driving test. Implementation of these measures could enable better targeting of resources for managing older driver licensing and support injury prevention strategies in this group.