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2021 Pilot Awards for Global Brain Health Leaders (GBHI)

Characterising the role of modifiable lifestyle factors in the ageing brain

Naiara Demnitz, D. Phil
Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance
Copenhagen, Denmark

Many researchers believe that there is not a single cause of Alzheimer’s disease but rather multiple factors such as lifestyle, environment and genetics that accumulate over time. Preventing or slowing disease progression may be more successful if interventions are implemented before extensive and irreversible brain changes have occurred. Dr. Naiara Demnitz will use brain scans and cognitive tests to understand how lifestyle factors, such as physical activity, mobility and social engagement may be associated with age-related brain changes that are associated with cognitive impairment. To conduct her study, Dr. Demnitz will leverage brain scan data from an ongoing European consortium study called “Lifebrain”, where participants (older adults) have undergone Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scans. The researchers will confirm their findings with a second participant population from the Lifebrain project and identify which modifiable lifestyle factors account for the most brain structure changes. The study findings will then be validated on a third participant dataset from a study in Latin America. If successful, the study results could shed light on how lifestyle factors may impact changes in the aging brain and could help develop interventions to delay or prevent cognitive decline.

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