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New Tool from NeuRA to Assess Dementia Risk Online

Scientists at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) have created and tested a method for evaluating the probability of developing dementia, which has shown encouraging preliminary outcomes.

At present, more than 55 million individuals worldwide are afflicted with dementia, and that number is projected to climb to 78 million by 2030, prompting a shift in dementia research towards prevention. The internet-based tool necessitates roughly 20 minutes to finish and produces a personalized dementia risk summary that patients can confer with their physician.

After creating the CogDRisk tool in 2022, the researchers have been assessing its efficacy by testing it on four pre-existing datasets, and the findings were recently published in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. According to their analysis, the technology successfully predicted the likelihood of developing dementia.

Professor Kaarin Anstey, who works at both the University of New South Wales’ School of Psychology and NeuRA, notes that there is a wealth of information on the risk factors for dementia in academic literature. However, a disparity exists between merely recognising the hazards and actually being able to evaluate if you are at risk, as well as knowing how to handle it. CogDRisk was devised to bridge this gap.

The failure of clinical trials for dementia treatment has resulted in a pressing need for dementia prevention, now recognised by the World Health Organization as a primary research focus. Professor Anstey explains that although many studies exist on the risk factors for dementia, there is not always a consensus on what they are.

To address this, the team performed a systematic review, identifying robust and modifiable risk factors that could be evaluated through a self-report instrument. These factors include insufficient physical activity, midlife obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, and poor diet. After years of work, the team published their review and created the risk assessment tool known as CogDRisk.

Typically, risk assessment tools are tailored to a specific dataset and population, making them less effective when applied to other groups. In contrast, this study evaluated the CogDRisk tool against four distinct cohorts from medical studies comprising over 9500 participants with varying demographics.

The technology assessed key risk and protective factors, such as diabetes, depression, insomnia, dietary habits, and physical activity, which were matched to the development of dementia within the same cohort. According to Professor Anstey, the statistical analysis shows that the tool is highly robust and transferable, functioning well across different nations and datasets. Additionally, it encompasses newer risk factors that were previously omitted.

Predicting dementia is challenging due to its gradual progression over several decades and the influence of genetic factors. However, certain risk factors can be modified, and most individuals want to understand their risk factors and take steps to address them.

The tool developed by the team aims to provide healthcare professionals and patients with accessible risk-reduction information. The team is working on translating the online tool into various languages to make it more accessible and developing a condensed version of the tool. Prof. Anstey and her team are focusing on both research and language translation to improve the tool’s practicality and global reach.

The CogDrisk tool developed by researchers at UNSW Sydney and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) represents a significant advance in the field of dementia prevention. The online tool uses statistical methods to combine the robust and modifiable risk factors for dementia cited in the existing literature, making it a comprehensive and generalisable risk assessment tool. It has the potential to be a game-changer in healthcare settings by providing personalised dementia risk reports that patients can discuss with their doctors.

Moreover, with its ability to work across different countries and data sets, it has the potential to become a widely used tool globally. The development of this tool represents a promising development in the intersection of healthcare and technology and provides hope for better outcomes for those at risk of dementia.


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