What is ageing dementia?

Dementia is not a single disease but rather a term to describe a number of illnesses that predominantly affect people over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease, which initially affects the areas in the temporal lobe that control memory, accounts for 50 to 70 per cent of all dementia cases.

Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to function normally. The condition involves the degeneration of brain cells, with common symptoms including memory loss (particularly recent memory), confusion, personality change, withdrawal and a loss of ability to do everyday tasks.

There are four key stages in dementia. The first stage involves being unable to remember everyday tasks while in the second phase patients are more likely to accept the condition. By the third phase people may become fixated on earlier memories and in the final stage, patients tend to withdraw completely.

With an ageing population in Australia, the population at-risk of dementia is predicted to rise to almost 1 million people by 2050.

QBI research

Research conducted at the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research (CJCADR) is focused on developing outputs that can alter the clinical trajectory of individuals with dementia and those that are as yet undiagnosed. The research undertaken by CJCADR elucidates, at a biochemical, molecular, behavioural, electrophysiological and histological and systems level, how ageing dementia causes neurodegeneration as well as the decline of memory and also, motor functions. This is complemented by studies into physiological ageing. The Centre uses as experimental systems mainly tissue culture cells and genetically modified mice and worms.

The Centre further pursues novel strategies to reduce the burden of dementia. A major outcome is the discovery of therapeutic interventions to delay the onset, prevent and even cure dementia in patients, using novel drugs and better methods to deliver them to the brain. Another outcome is the development of biomarkers to diagnose dementia earlier, more cheaply and with higher sensitivity and specificity, and to monitor therapeutic interventions. Finally, lifestyle strategies will be formulated for maintaining a healthy brain.

Breakthrough research in the Götz laboratory is proceeding with work to treat Alzheimer's using ultrasound technology, bringing hope to the hundreds of thousands of Australians currently with the illness.

CLEM JONES CENTRE FOR AGEING DEMENTIA RESEARCH (CJCADR)

To build on the discoveries of QBI, Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research (CJCADR) was established in early 2012. CJCADR is Australia's only dedicated centre for ageing dementia research. The Centre's inaugural director is Professor Jürgen Götz.