Brain Sciences


Dementia research

Our dementia research spans the full spectrum from discovery science right through to the evaluation of health and social care. Read examples of the impact our dementia research has on the real world.

Towards 'Dementia-Friendly' Hospitals

Shocking statistics on the experience of dementia patients in hospitals are catalysing major changes in practice. 

Hospitals can be intimidating places at the best of times. For patients with dementia, they can be highly distressing. Having documented the enormous difficulties dementia patients experience in hospitals, Dr Liz Sampson’s research is feeding into a training programme across north London to raise awareness among acute care staff at all levels – from porters to chief executives – of the needs of dementia patients. 

Imaging | Inside the Brain

The ability to study the structure of the brain in living people has yielded new insights disease, and provided a crucial platform for clinical trials.

Although post-mortem analysis long ago revealed the brain abnormalities associated with Alzheimer’s disease, only with the imaging techniques of CT and, in particular, MRI have changes in living brain tissue been visualised. Professor Nick Fox has pioneered studies to characterise brain pathology in dementia, and in individuals in advance of disease. His work has not only established that brain changes occur well in advance of clinical disease, but has also provided a platform for reliably assessing the impact of interventions in clinical trials. 

Alzheimer’s disease | An Inflammatory Finding

Work on two Turkish families with dementia led to the discovery of one of the most important genetic risk factors yet identified in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Sequencing of coding regions of the genome has become a costeffective way to identify the genes underlying inherited diseases, including familial dementias. For Dr Rita Guerreiro in Professor John Hardy’s lab, an analysis of Turkish families affected by early-onset frontotemporal dementia led to the identification of a risk factor with the second biggest impact on disease after apolipoprotein E (ApoE) and sparked a flurry of interest in the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Huntington’s Disease | The Immune Connection

Immune cells as well as brain cells are affected in Huntington’s disease – and the two may be closely connected. 

The brain is the main focus of Huntington’s disease, but the mutant protein that causes it is present in every cell of the body. Indeed, abnormalities have been identified outside the brain, particularly in the immune system. Professor Sarah Tabrizi and colleagues have identified a key mechanism by which the Huntington’s mutation leads to overactive innate immune responses, a finding that could have consequences for the brain as well as peripheral tissues.