Understanding relationships between neuroimaging markers and culturally relevant protective factors in Aboriginal communities: A way to enhance dementia prevention and diagnosis?
Research has shown higher dementia rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities compared to the broader population; however, there has been no study on underlying brain changes. Furthermore, lifecourse exposures (e.g., education, work opportunities) may be protective even when dementia-related disease/injury are present; yet little is understood about these relationships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and how they predict cognitive function over time. This study aims to investigate relationships between brain structure and protective factors that contribute to healthy ageing and delay/prevent dementia; and will follow-up participants to predict cognitive outcomes. The project will involve co-developing a culturally relevant measure that captures protective lifecourse exposures. Two-hundred older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will then have Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans. MRI brain structure measures will be examined in relation to the protective lifecourse exposure measure, to understand how they are related. This project will also develop a way to assess cognition via telephone or video conference, to easily follow up MRI participants 1 year later and investigate how the brain and protective factors predict cognitive decline. This project will inform culturally meaningful dementia prevention strategies and enhance dementia diagnosis for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Louise Neale is a Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA). I have worked in the NeuRA Aboriginal Health & Ageing Program team since 2017.