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2019 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant (AARG)

Identifying Cognitive and Health-Related Biomarkers for Dementia in Congo

How to eliminate barriers in understanding dementia in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Jean Ikanga, Ph.D.
Emory University
Atlanta, GA - United States


According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, an estimated 2.13 million people were living with dementia in Sub-Saharan Africa as of 2015 with the numbers projected to nearly double by 2030. Studies have identified possible risk factors to dementia; however the role these may play in sub-Saharan Africa is unknown.  Dr. Jean Ikanga proposes a pilot project that will identify cognitive, biological and lifestyle factors to better distinguish healthy aging and probable dementia in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

Research Plan

Dr. Ikanga and his team plan to conduct their study by using tests of mental ability developed specifically for individuals living in Sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers plan to recruit 80 participants from Congo, which includes 40 cognitively unimpaired individuals and 40 individuals with probable dementia. All participants will be 50 years of age or older. The research team will then categorize the participants into two groups based on their scores on questionnaires, which were developed in prior work suggesting accuracy in identifying individuals with memory impairment and/or dementia. Furthermore, participants will also complete a number of cognitive tests, blood tests, brain scans, as well as medical history and lifestyle questionnaires. This project is a collaboration between the Protestant University of Congo and Emory University in the United States.


Dr. Ikanga’s study could help identify factors distinguishing healthy aging and suspected dementia in Congo. Additionally, this study may provide much needed information about dementia in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study results could be used to create an intervention and support plan in developing nations to reduce health disparities.

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