Manchester dementia scientists lead field at national conference on home turf

Posted on 7th March 2016

Researchers at the University of Manchester will take to the stage over the next three days to share their latest dementia research findings at the UK’s largest annual gathering of dementia scientists.

The Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2016 is being held in Manchester and this year’s sold-out meeting is the largest in the charity’s history, playing host to over 500 scientists from across the UK and beyond.

The brightest minds from dementia research will descend on the city for the scientific event running from 8-9 March at the Town Hall in Manchester. Monday 7 March will also see researchers share their findings with the public at a free afternoon event, a career development event for scientists and a day dedicated to supporting over 100 PhD students setting out on a career in dementia research.

The University of Manchester has a strong track record in dementia research and as well those researchers who have organised the conference, three scientists from the region will take the stage to reveal their latest research findings.

Dr Laura Parkes, who works at the Centre for Imaging Science, will share findings from her research using sophisticated brain scanning techniques to understand more about how the brain works. She is using a technique called functional MRI which measures blood flow and oxygen levels in different areas of the brain as a way to indicate how hard they are working. She used the technique to study the brains of 58 healthy people who were asked to do a tricky thinking task while having a brain scan.

She said:

“Our study has shown that the brain isn’t working as hard in people as they get older, particularly in those people who didn’t perform well on the thinking task. We’re now using the technique to study the balance of oxygen and blood flow in the brain in people with vascular disease to see how changes in blood vessels in the brain could alter how the brain functions and contribute to dementia. It’s fantastic to have such a major conference here on our doorstep and to get an opportunity to discuss my research.”

Fred Walker from Sale, who lost his wife Joan to Alzheimer’s in 2010, fundraises tirelessly for Alzheimer’s Research UK to support new research. He said:

“It’s encouraging that diseases like Alzheimer’s have started to come out of the shadows in recent years and more people are speaking out about the massive impact they have on families. Alzheimer’s turned our lives upside down and it’s so sad to think that the same is happening right now to around 3,600 people with dementia in Manchester. Finding out more about the cutting-edge research happening into dementia has given me hope that something can be done to prevent other families from going through what we did. I’m proud that so many world-class researchers will be coming to our city to get their heads together to tackle this important problem.”

Prof Nigel Hooper, Director of Dementia Research at the University of Manchester and Coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Manchester and North West Network Centre, which organised the conference, said:

“There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and with a historic lack of investment into the condition, we urgently need to make progress for those affected and their families. Despite low investment in research, the UK punches above its weight on the global research stage and Manchester researchers are playing an important role in this activity.

“Dementia is a devolution priority for Greater Manchester and over the coming months we’ll be rolling out a five-year plan to improve the lives of people with dementia in the region – with research a key part of our strategy. It’s very timely that Alzheimer’s Research UK has chosen the city to host its research conference and we hope the event will kick-start new discussions, ideas and collaborations that will take us closer to our goal.”

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