Funding: Weston Family Foundation awards for collaborative research in dementia prevention

A collaboration between interdisciplinary researchers from five faculties at Western, five provinces and four countries will set out to investigate factors associated with dementia prevention.

The project, led by Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, Professor of Clinical Neurological Sciences, was supported by the Weston Family Foundation’s Transformational Research 2020 Grant, which had awarded nearly $1.4 million over three years.

By examining environmental, sociodemographic and patient data from across Canada, Hachinski and his collaborators hope to develop cost-effective models of dementia prevention that will ultimately help reduce incidence of dementia in the Canadian population.

“We know that environment, socioeconomic factors, access to medical care and individual risk and protective factors play a role in stroke and dementia risk,” Hachinski said. “This project is unique in that no one has ever attempted to look at all relevant factors associated with dementia prevention at once.”

Hachinski notes that the average person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease has up to eight different causes for the dementia. The most common and only treatable and preventable cause is-due to brain blood vessel disease, often caused by a stroke.

When examining incidence (cases per 1000) of stroke and dementia in Ontario over time, the researchers found a 32 per cent decrease in stroke and 7 per cent in dementia.

“This represents thousands of individuals spared a tragedy. We need to find out how we are preventing some of these cases and help to apply the lessons widely and systematically.”

The project features 25 co-investigators, including multiple researchers from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. Kem Rogers, PhD, will provide a basic science perspective and act as project manager, Stephanie Frisbee, PhD, and Dr. Reza Azarpazhooh who will lead the epidemiological work. Jason Gilliland, PhD, will be leading the environmental analyses, while Shehzad Ali, PhD, will provide the economic analysis.