Emma Richards - PhD Student, Visual Attention and Information Processing Speed in Vascular Dementia, University of Swansea

Not all forms of dementia are primarily characterised by detrimental changes in memory. This is particularly the case for vascular dementia. Emma’s research has focused on determining the integrity of brain functions other than memory in vascular dementia and has found that finding, paying attention to, interpreting and responding to information within the environment is significantly worse in this condition compared to cognitively healthy ageing. Furthermore, such processing is also significantly slower and much more prone to the detrimental effects of irrelevant and distracting objects within the environment. Such findings can help to explain what might be causing some of the signs and symptoms related to vascular dementia and why some people might find understanding and interacting with their surroundings very difficult, and indeed Emma’s research has informed the design development of dementia-friendly environments.

Furthermore, and more controversially, the type of tests Emma has developed with funding from BRACE, can be expected to contribute in future to the earlier diagnosis of vascular dementia. Many people have suggested that funding should not be awarded for research into early diagnosis because of the lack of a cure at present, but with great foresight, BRACE have funded such research where others have not, and the importance of giving individuals this choice of early diagnosis, even in the absence of a cure, is now clear.

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