Research Projects

Memory problems in a visual form of dementia


Awarded to:
Prof Chris Butler

Current award:

University of Oxford

1 April 2017 - 31 March 2018

Full project name:

Memory impairment in posterior cortical atrophy






A researcher from the University of Oxford is looking at the causes and consequences of a rare form of dementia.

This important project aims to build the understanding of posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) a form of dementia that strongly impacts a person’s visual ability.

Over the past two years Prof Christopher Butler and his college Dr Samrah Ahmed have been working with a group of people with PCA to better understand the ways in which the condition differs from the more typical form of Alzheimer’s disease.

They want to build a more complete picture of PCA symptoms ­– particularly changes in memory ability – and explore how these symptoms affect people in their everyday lives.

To better understand the causes of the condition, they are also studying the changes in the brain that give rise to the unique symptoms of PCA.

Why is this important?

In order to help people affected by PCA, it is vital to better understand its causes and how the symptoms affect a person’s daily life.

Currently, PCA is poorly understood and can often go undetected or misdiagnosed. As PCA initially affects a person’s vision, people experiencing the early symptoms will often be referred to opticians and ophthalmologists before the symptoms are attributed to changes in brain function, rather than eyesight.

This work will pinpoint other symptoms such as memory, that can be used in conjunction with visual symptoms to make an earlier and more accurate diagnoses.

The findings could also help to clarify and update guidelines for doctors and support the development of better diagnostic tests for PCA.

What will they do?

The team have worked with people living with PCA to collect information about the symptoms they experience and how it impacts their everyday life.

They have also collected MRI brain scans to reveal the areas of the brain affected by the condition.

This Network Support Grant will allow them to conduct careful analysis of the data, evaluate how their findings could help improve diagnosis and support, and crucially, share their findings with the medical and scientific community by publishing papers in research journals.

Posterior cortical atrophy

Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a rare form of dementia that usually begins by affecting a person’s vision. It is also known as Benson’s syndrome.