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PREVENT-Dementia study identifies association between midlife dementia risk factors and longitudinal brain atrophy

Thursday 05 December 2019

On 5 December, UK researchers published a paper showing that dementia risk factors are associated with longitudinal brain atrophy. Brain atrophy, which involves the loss of neurons, is a common feature of many diseases that affect the brain. Findings were published in the journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

In the published study, scientists investigated the relationship between dementia risk factors and subsequent brain atrophy in middle aged participants. A total of 193 participants aged 40 to 59 at baseline were recruited from the UK PREVENT Dementia programme and underwent an MRI scan at baseline. 168 of them had a repeat scan approximately two years after. 53% of the participants recruited in the study had a parental family history of dementia. Dementia risk factors were calculated for each participant at baseline using the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Dementia (CAIDE) risk score.  This dementia risk score is a tool to estimate late-life dementia risk, based on midlife vascular risk factors. Longitudinal rates of brain atrophy, including the percentage brain volume change between the two scans, were measured.

Findings showed that increased CAIDE score (> 6) in midlife was associated with greater rate of brain atrophy over a two-year period. No relation was found between brain atrophy and people with a parent with and without dementia. The presence of APOE ε4 was also not related to brain atrophy. In addition, the scientists reported a strong correlation between age and brain atrophy.