The CDP brings together specialists from the fields of medicine, basic science and the social sciences and were delighted to have speakers represent all of these themes. Our Directors, Profs Jean Manson, Craig Ritchie, and Charlotte Clarke led a line up of fantastic speakers outlining the significance of the launch and of our world leading research into preventing dementia.
Prof Siddarthan Chandran opened the occasion, commenting on the importance of the centre and the need for research across the life-course to understand degenerative disease, stating that he felt that we are on the ‘tipping point’ of discoveries in beating dementia.
Craig Ritchie introduced the concept of cross discipline working between basic, clinical and social science as the only realistic way to achieve dementia prevention and implement strategies into interventions in practice. He highlighted that the first step in achieving this aim was to ‘believe it is possible’.
Audience belief that preventing dementia was possible was supported by evidence from the FINGER study, presented by Prof Miia Kivipelto from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The FINGER researchers invited people from previous studies who had scored highly on a calculation of future dementia risk. The participants were then put in to one of two groups: an experimental cohort who received high-intensity interventions on diet, exercise and other factors, and a control group who received moderate health advice. After two years, the group who had been receiving a lot of intervention did significantly better on a cognitive test than the control group, showing the profound impact that lifestyle intervention could have in dementia.
The basic sciences were represented by Jean Manson and Dr Tara Spires-Jones, who gave an amazing outline of her work in neuronal synapses and the steps being taken in molecular and cellular studies to better understand how dementia affects brain cells. Prof Lydia Plowman and Prof Charlotte Clarke gave an overview of the very different approach taken in the social sciences, outlining the focus on participant experiences, covering issues such as identity, autonomy and social interaction. As Tara later tweeted, we have a huge problem in dementia and we have to think about prevention from a basic science, clinical trial and public health perspective. The key to preventing dementia will be to integrate experience and expertise from all three areas.
Closing comments were made by Henry Simmons from Alzheimer Scotland and the Chief Scientist for Health, Prof Andrew Morris, both of whom gave a rousing commendation to the Directors for their vision in making this Centre a reality. Henry spoke of the hope that research into dementia gives to families living with the condition, calling the launch of the CDP a “statement of intent, a pledge to all those living with dementia that we will make a difference”.
Andrew’s final words before the poster session “be bold, be ambitious, be enterprising” felt like a fitting statement to launch the CDP.
Thank you to everyone who could join us on the day, and those who missed it, stay tuned, we will be posting the speakers’ slides here soon!