28 October 2014 11:34

Lancaster University is leading two research projects worth a total of £1.5m aimed at improving the detection and diagnosis of dementia.

Dementia is estimated to account for 1 per cent of global GDP with 35 million sufferers around the world, due to quadruple by 2050.

Both projects are being funded as part of an £8m investment at 11 universities by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Government Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman, said; “Britain is already a world leader in clinical research and its right that we are harnessing this expertise to help tackle one of the biggest health challenges of our time; dementia. This investment will lead to improved detection and diagnosis of dementia and ultimately deliver better care for patients.”

Lancaster University’s MODEM project aims to develop eye trackers because there is evidence that eye movements are linked to cognitive health. These trackers can be used at home to spot some of the early signs of dementia – with the aim of reducing costs and the time that patients need to spend at a hospital.

Dr Trevor Crawford from Lancaster University’s Department of Psychology said: “For people with Alzheimer’s Disease and their carers, it is vital that we find an effective and affordable solution to the problem of disease monitoring so that we can apply medication and technology to make the timely interventions that will improve the quality of life for people with dementia.

“This research will make it possible for people with dementia to be monitored carefully at home during their everyday activities, rather than the stressful clinical environment of the doctor’s surgery.”

The MODEM project is led by Lancaster’s Professor Pete Sawyer, Professor Hans Gellersen and Dr Kwang In Kim from the School of Computing and Communications and Dr Trevor Crawford from the Faculty of Science and Technology, with psychiatrist Dr Iracema Leroi from the University of Manchester.

The second Lancaster led project aims to detect and measure the progression of dementia by developing a device to analyse both electrical signals from the brain and cardiovascular signals like blood flow and oxygenation.

It is led by Professors Aneta Stefanovska and Peter McClintock from Lancaster University’s Department of Physics, with neurosurgeon Professor Peter Kirkpatrick from Cambridge.

Professor Stefanovska said the ultimate goal is to provide a new way of diagnosing dementia.

“I hope that we will be able to reveal the link between the oscillations in the cardiovascular system and the brain waves in health and in dementia. To date, very few studies have dealt with the fact that neurons in the brain depend on a very orchestrated action of the cardiovascular system to feed them with oxygen and ions that they use in their functioning. Our novel methods for nonlinear dynamics analysis and novel theory for systems with adjustable characteristic frequencies are bases for our original approach to dementia.”