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Developing low-cost cognitive tools for dementia assessment

16 December 2016


Cardiff University receives half a million pounds in first phase of global health programme

Cardiff University has been awarded around half a million pounds to develop a low-cost cognitive tool for dementia assessment in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

Expanding on existing work at Cardiff University and the University of California, San Francisco, the new project will generate novel tablet-based tools for dementia diagnosis, working in partnership with clinicians, researchers and patients in two LMICs – Cuba and China.

The project also establishes a unique global research network, encompassing experts from Cuba and China, as well as Ireland, the US and UK, focused on technological advances in cognitive assessment, interlinked with training and leadership opportunities for individuals working on dementia in LMICs.

The project was funded by the MRC and ESRC from the first phase of the research councils’ £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), designed to address issues affecting people in LMICs using the UK’s world-class research expertise.

Professor Kim Graham, Dean of Research for Cardiff University’s College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, and principal investigator on the study, said: “It is estimated that by 2050, 71% of individuals experiencing dementia will live in low and middle income countries. Currently only 10% of individuals with dementia receive an appropriate diagnosis, limiting access to clinical guidance, supportive care and emerging drug therapies.

“Our new project will look at using digital technology, such as tablets and smartphones, to provide low-cost but highly sensitive cognitive tools for dementia assessment. By using technology that is readily available in low and middle income countries, we can eliminate the need for more expensive and less accessible diagnostic approaches and help families and healthcare professionals implement appropriate and tailored care for patients.”

Declan Mulkeen, the MRC’s Chief of Strategy added: “It’s encouraging to see projects tackling the broader environmental and economic factors affecting health, as well as using new technologies to bring cost-effective treatments within reach.

“The MRC has a strong track record in Global Health research, often in partnership.  Infectious disease has been the main focus and remains the largest area of funding, but as countries develop, their health needs change.  The Global Challenges Research Fund will enable us to tackle a broader range of health problems, for local and global benefit.”