Senior Research Scientist
Conjoint Associate Professor, UNSW
A/Prof Peters works to develop our understanding of the risk factors which increase our risk of cognitive decline and dementia and the ways in which we might act to reduce this risk. Alongside leading teams delivering high profile evidence synthesis work in the area of dementia risk reduction she has a particular interest in hypertension and in the treatment of hypertension in older adults. She was the cognitive function lead for the award winning multinational Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial (HYVET, HYVET -COG) and both her work in hypertension and evidence synthesis are cited widely in the academic literature and by guidelines.
(Clip: BBC World News)
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.
There is increasing evidence to show that intergenerational interaction is beneficial for older adults and children alike. Higher levels of social engagement in older adults have been associated with better physical and cognitive function and wellbeing. Time spent with older adults has been linked to enhanced social and personal skills in children. However, familial intergenerational interaction is falling despite rising numbers of community-based older adults. In Australia alone approximately 15% of the total population are aged 65 and over, up from 5% in the 1920s and estimated to increase to 22% (8.8 million) in the next 30-40 years. Employment and economic factors drive greater geographical mobility of working age adults, resulting in increased separation from older family members with 40% of Australians aged 75-84 and 51% of those 85 and over living alone. Recent television series in Australia and the United Kingdom, have raised awareness and enthusiasm for intergenerational activities as an opportunity that could be realised within communities. However, while intergenerational programs are gaining in popularity globally, evidence for best practice in this area remains scarce.
This project will build and pilot a novel, evidence-based, co-designed Intergenerational Program Development toolkit targeted for community use and tailored to an Australian environment.
Interested in volunteering?
This project is funded by the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute. The aim of this project is to use fundus photography as a tool to identify those with greater risk of developing cognitive decline with a view to early intervention and risk reduction. We will investigate the relationship between retinopathies and changes in brain structure. A systematic review approach will be used to summarize current evidence on the epidemiology of co-existent eye diseases and dementia/cognitive impairment.
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.
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.
Systematic review of reviews were conducted to synthesize the available evidence for interventions for risk factors associated with cognitive declines and dementia. This research was used to inform WHO guideline development.
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 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.
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 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.
We know that having high blood pressure increases the chance that we will develop dementia and cognitive decline as we grow older but we are still trying to understand whether using blood pressure lowering treatments (antihypertensives) can help to prevent this. To explore the relationship between blood pressure, blood pressure lowering and cognition we will combine global data from the highest quality placebo-controlled trials of antihypertensive drugs. This project will deliver knowledge and targeted clinical recommendations for antihypertensive use to support reduction of dementia risk.
DR GAIL KENNING
Interdisciplinary Fellow Ageing Futures Institute
: 02 8936 0598