More than 400,000 Australians are currently living with dementia. Dementia is most commonly diagnosed when a person is older and shows symptoms such as memory loss and confusion. But what if it could be detected at an earlier age? And through something as simple as the saliva in your mouth?
Researchers believe that there are risk factors in the earlier years of a person’s life that can increase the chance of them developing dementia symptoms later.
To learn more if there is any scientific truth behind this, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and University of Melbourne are conducting one of the largest dementia research seen in Australia.
To better understand what changes happen in an ageing brain, this research hopes to have up to 6 000 Australians aged from 40 to 65 that they can track over a five year period, all starting with a saliva sample.
Because dementia is a complex condition which is unique in every patient, any research into dementia requires in depth analysis of a person and their changes. This particular research will be conducted online using surveys and tasks to track memory, thinking, lifestyle, mood, sleep and biological changes over time.
This large scale research hopes to look at dementia from multiple angles – why do some people develop symptoms while others don’t? Is treatment development an option? Or should more focus be on prevention? Does a change in lifestyle or medication play a role?
Researchers have explained that the initial saliva samples will be used for genetic testing to better look at genes that may be involved in brain plasticity, memory and thinking. Genetic risk factors may give a clue to the “underlying biological mechanisms that are driving cognitive decline”.
However, there is also lifestyle factor that can also potentially pose a risk or even be a sign of dementia symptoms, for example changes in sleep patterns. The chances of a developing dementia is likely a combination of genetics and lifestyle.
If definitive risk factors can be found, or modifiable lifestyle changes can be made, this could mean huge developments for dementia prevention.
The Healthy Brain Project are still looking for participants for their upcoming research which you can join on their website. They will also be providing participants with insight into the latest research findings in the field, making it a great opportunity to learn more about dementia and the ageing process.