BRACE has been offering PhD studentships since the early 90s to committed talented dementia researchers. Over 35 PhDs have been funded thus far, to ensure the future of dementia research. Additionally, BRACE has also offered funding to many research projects, supporting many researchers to achieve their PhDs. The researchers of not just today, but also tomorrow will help us to defeat dementia.

We are proud to announce Dr Alfie Wearn has recently been awarded his doctorate, with BRACE’s support, for his dementia research project into earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

During Alfie’s PhD, he worked on a BRACE-funded project and he is now able to continue his research because of BRACE funding.

Here are a few words from Dr Wearn about his BRACE funded work.

Despite many years of trying, it is proving extremely hard to find effective treatments for dementia which can effectively slow it down or stop it getting worse. One reason for this is that we may be trying to treat it too late – when daily life is already significantly affected by dementia.

Earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia, is therefore an extremely valuable goal, as this may help us identify “at-risk” patient groups, enabling clinical trials to target dementia even earlier.

I started my PhD in September 2015 and I have been working on ways to identify signs of Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms begin. The part of the brain that is often damaged first in Alzheimer’s disease is the hippocampus, which is responsible for making memories stick, making them last for as long as possible. Which explains why a common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss – in particular, an inability to make new memories last. However, memory tests for Alzheimer’s disease don’t normally test the ability to make memories last for more than about 30 minutes.

Detecting very subtle damage to the hippocampus, which might be a very early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, might require more rigorous testing of the hippocampus. We found that by testing people’s memory after 4 weeks and measuring the size of the hippocampus using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we can predict which people are most likely to experience cognitive decline ( over the next year, despite having no other cognitive symptoms.

This is an exciting find and may present a potential new screening test for identifying Alzheimer’s disease much earlier than is currently possible. As a result of this work, BRACE have kindly agreed to fund further exploration of this finding, by enabling us to include the new 4-week memory test in the much larger European prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (EPAD) trial.

Thank you to Dr Wearn for his dedication to dementia research and thank you to all of our wonderful supporters who have given donations to fund dementia defeating doctors.

If you can afford to, please consider making a donation below to ensure the future of dementia research is protected. Together we will defeat dementia!