Although the condition is associated with old age, changes in the brain that lead to dementia can occur decades before symptoms appear.
Experts say that understanding these changes are key to developing ways to intervene before irreversible damage has been done.
Dementia is an urgent health issue and requires forward-thinking international collaboration to defeat it. As brain changes that cause dementia happen many years before symptoms, we have an opportunity to prevent progression before people are affected.
Professor Craig Ritchie, Director, Centre for Dementia Prevention, University of Edinburgh
The brain imaging project – known as the TriBEKa Consortium – will paint the clearest picture yet of the first factors that determine risk of dementia.
Researchers will use a brain scanning technique known as positron emission tomography (PET) to detect harmful build-up of chemicals associated with dementia. Brain structure will be measured using a tool known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Modelling and understanding early changes in Alzheimer’s disease is key for understanding the role of the different risk factors and designing prevention trials. The TriBEKa Consortium will become a key source of information to give those answers.
Professor José Luis Molinuevo, Scientific Director, BarcelonaBeta Brain Research Centre
Participants in the study – aged between 40 and 65 – will also take part in memory tests, family history and lifestyle assessments and will be invited to take part in a three-year follow-up.
Data gathered from the project will be made available to the global science community using data-sharing platform known as the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN).
We are proud to contribute the TriBEKa Consortium. We know that it is essential that we learn how to identify Alzheimer’s brain changes at the earliest point, with the goal of understanding risk factors to ultimately intervening in the disease process before cognitive decline and dementia symptoms are present.
Dr Maria C. Carrillo, Chief Science Officer, Alzheimer’s Association
The initiative – the largest of its type to focus on this age group – brings together experts led by the University of Edinburgh in the UK, the BarcelonaBeta Brain Research Centre in Spain and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.
Dementia affects 47 million people worldwide, with Alzheimer’s disease the most common cause. There are 9.9 million new cases diagnosed globally each year.
The funding boost comes from the US-based Alzheimer’s Association and donation from an anonymous international charitable foundation.