Newcastle scientists have received £50,000 of new funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK for an innovative research project investigating the links between sleep and dementia. The announcement comes during Dementia Action Week, a national initiative aimed at raising awareness of dementia and encouraging people to join efforts to help those affected by the condition.
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the third most common type of dementia, affecting around 100,000 people in the UK. DLB can have a range of complex symptoms including hallucinations and sleep problems as well as a decline in memory and thinking skills. As with other forms of dementia, symptoms get worse over time but people with DLB often also experience short-term fluctuations in the severity of their symptoms.
Up to 90% of people with DLB have these brief episodes of confusion, attention loss and communication problems, but researchers don’t yet understand the underlying causes. In this new project, Dr John-Paul Taylor at the University of Newcastle will work people with and without dementia to better understand the way symptoms fluctuate over time, and to see if there could be a link to how well people sleep.
In the study people living with DLB and Alzheimer’s disease will complete assessments of their memory ability and sleep quality. The research team will also measure participants’ attention skills while recording their brain activity. Given how so many people have problems with their sleep and the close relationship between sleep and problems with memory, this project will help develop more sensitive tools to study fluctuations in people’s memory and thinking skills.
Dr John-Paul Taylor from Newcastle University said:
“We have all felt the effects of a bad night’s sleep, and it can play havoc with our ability to concentrate and stay alert. Many people with dementia experience sleep problems, and we want to find out if this could be a cause of the variation in symptoms we see in dementia with Lewy bodies. These short-term fluctuations in memory and thinking skills can have an enormous impact on people with DLB and their families. I am very grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for funding our research into this poorly understood aspect of the condition.”
“We are working to understand the role of sleep in memory and thinking changes by working with people with and without dementia. So much of the work we do at the University is only possible thanks to members of the public who volunteer to take part in research.”
Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:
“There is increasing evidence of a relationship between sleep and dementia. Unpicking these links and answering these complex questions could lead to new ways to diagnose, prevent and treat dementia and the only way that this will be possible is through continued investment in dementia research.
“There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, with over 34,000 in the North East alone, but studies like this pioneering project offer real hope in the fight against dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK receives no government funding for the research we support, and it is only thanks to the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to fund vital dementia research like Dr Taylor’s project.”
“Anyone who would like to take action to support dementia research by volunteering to take part in studies can find out more by calling Alzheimer’s Research UK on 0300 111 5 111 or by visiting www.joindementiaresearch.org”
Posted in Science news