Dementia Australia Research Foundation - Victoria

About the Foundation

The Dementia Australia Dementia Research Foundation – Victoria was established in 2012 to distribute funds generously donated for the purpose of research.

The funds are used to provide research grants to Australian based dementia researchers, with priority given to projects with potential benefits for the 97,000 Victorians living with dementia and their families and carers with the expectation to grow to 386,000 by 2050.

Investment in research is vital if we are to find improved treatments for dementia and ensure people living with dementia have the best quality of life possible.

Some of the leading dementia researchers in the world are working right here in Australia, and the Foundation is dedicated to supporting them.

The Foundation awards dementia research grants annually through the Dementia Australia Research Foundation. To date, we have distributed 15 research grants with a total value of $730,000. The Foundation is extremely grateful to everyone who has donated funds to help us achieve this. We are encouraged by the increasing support from Victorians who are clearly interested in supporting dementia research, and we are excited to see the potential contributions the funded research projects will make to the field.

Research priorities

The Foundation’s priority is to fund research that is likely to directly benefit people with dementia, their families and carers. Grants have therefore generally been awarded to projects investigating psychosocial and clinical aspects of dementia, rather than to projects based in the lab. In consultation with the Dementia Australia Vic Consumer Advisory Committee and others, the Foundation’s Board have set five priority research areas for our grants program.

  • The less common forms of dementia (including frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body disease)
  • Assistive technologies to improve the quality of life of people with dementia and their families
  • Supporting families and carers
  • Improving care of hospitalised patients with dementia
  • Translational research (moving evidence into practice)

Annual dementia grants program

The annual research grants program is managed by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation. Each year, applications are sought from Australian dementia researchers in April, with applications closing in May. Early career researchers are eligible to apply, as the aim is to help build Australia’s dementia research capacity. The grant applications received are subject to a rigorous external assessment process and are further considered by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation’s Scientific and Medical Panel. Researchers are notified of the outcomes in December and funding can commence from the following January.

Details of the grants program, including instructions for applicants, are available here.

Projects funded for 2016

Does social competence impact quality of life for people with a diagnosis of dementia?

Dr Michelle Kelly and colleagues at University of NSW are utilising a new screening tool of social cognition (currently being piloted in a group of people with dementia) to determine the role that impairments in social cognition play on quality of life. Dr Kelly was the recipient of the Cecilia Margaret Hudson Dementia Research Grant.

"Beauty and the Brain" - A novel approach to anhedonia in dementia

Dr Muireann Irish  and her colleagues at University of Newcastle are working to determine the extent to which an inability to experience pleasure, “anhedonia”, is present in people living with younger-onset dementia by using experiential and neuroimaging analyses.

The neural correlates of memory improvement following transcranial direct current stimulation combined with cognitive training

Dr Donel Martin and his colleagues at University of NSW are using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the neural mechanisms for memory improvement following transcranial direct current stimulation combined with cognitive training. Dr Martin was the recipient of the BB and A Miller Grant (Clinical).

Hotspots of dementia risk in Australian communities: an approach to better targeting preventive interventions

Dr Nasser Bagheri and his colleagues at the Australian National University are developing and applying new methodologies to identify geographical hotspots of dementia risk in local communities and their associations with important socio demographic, environmental and individual characteristics. Dr Bagheri was the recipient of the BB and A Miller Grant (Lifestyle).

Ongoing funded projects

A randomised controlled trial to determine the effect of location of assessment and number of assessments on driving test performance of people recently diagnosed with dementia

Assoc Prof Carolyn Unsworth from the Department of Occupational Therapy, La Trobe University, and colleagues are examining how location of assessment and the opportunity to undertake a second test affect the outcome of driver assessments for people with dementia. It is hoped that findings will contribute to recommendations to Vic Roads for assessing driving ability in people diagnosed with dementia.

Imaging the eye to diagnose pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease

Dr Hamid Sohrabi and colleagues at the McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Centre were awarded the Cecilia Margaret Hudson Dementia Research Grant. They will investigate a new imaging technique to detect Alzheimer’s disease pathology in the eye, as a potential test to diagnose the disease before symptoms emerge.

A therapeutic intervention in Alzheimer’s disease: Intranasal oxytocin administration to enhance emotion processing and reduce caregiver burden

Dr Donna McCade and colleagues at the Brain and Mind Research Institute will trial a new therapy, intranasal administration of oxytocin, to improve emotion recognition, social interactions and neuropsychiatric symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Improving quality of life for people with dementia: development and evaluation of a 3D virtual world

Dr Amir Hossein Ghapanchi and colleagues at Griffith University will trial a 3D Virtual World (3DVW) program for people with dementia living in residential care, to see if it improves quality of life.

Development and use of a context-rich virtual learning environment for practicing interpersonal communication skills

Dr Janet Beilby and colleagues at Curtin University will trial a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for communication skills training for professional and family carers.

Completed funded projects

Affective communication robots for supporting care givers and people with dementia in home-based care

Associate Professor Rajiv Khosla from the Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovation, La Trobe University and colleagues tested assistive robots programmed for people with dementia and their carers to use in their home. The robots can provide individualised reminders, games and quizzes, books, news and weather, singing and dancing. Findings were positive, including increased social engagement for the person with dementia, and respite for carers.

A randomised controlled trial of MAXCOG: an individualised early intervention program for people with mild cognitive impairment or early dementia and their family supporters

Dr Bridget Regan from Monash University and colleagues are evaluating the MAXCOG program, which aims to give people newly diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or early dementia strategies to help them cope with their cognitive problems in daily life.

What kinds of support systems help people to remember in daily life, especially as their memories start to fail?

Dr Celia Harris and colleagues from Macquarie University are investigating the systems of memory support that people use to compensate for declining memory, and how effective they are, focusing on couples and their shared remembering.

Development of a social cognition assessment battery for older adults 

Dr Michelle Kelly and colleagues at University of NSW are developing and evaluating the Brief Assessment of Social Skills (BASS) screening tool for people with Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia.

Pilot of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of exercise to preserve brain health in type 2 diabetes mellitus

Dr Michele Callisaya and colleagues at Monash University are evaluating a 6 month exercise program for people with diabetes to test whether physical activity can reduce their risk of cognitive decline.

Cognitive training in older persons with mild cognitive impairment with and without mood disorders

Dr Alex Bahar-Fuchs and colleagues at the Australian National University are evaluating a cognitive training program for people with mild cognitive impairment, with and without neuropsychiatric symptoms.