Dementia Research Centre


Research Studies

At the Dementia Research Centre we have a number of research projects for which you may be eligible but which do not involve a trial of a new medication. These ‘non-drug’ studies are vitally important to allow us to learn more about how dementia diseases cause symptoms and how these can best be measured. 

Our non-drug studies involve several different kinds of assessment. These often include questionnaires; detailed psychology tests looking at memory, but also often language and other cognitive functions; MRI scanning of the brain; and sometimes other tests such as measurement of eye movements, pupil reactions and muscle activity, or donation of blood, urine or spinal fluid. In addition to memory we are particularly trying to understand other kinds of complex brain functions that can be affected in dementia; these include aspects of perception, feeling, spatial navigation, emotion and social awareness. The studies have been designed to help us address these aspects.

What Does Research Participation Typically Involve?

As a participant in a research study we may ask you to spend up to two consecutive days at the Dementia Research Centre (Queen Square), but it is completely up to you how much time you would like to contribute to your visit. During that time, you might participate in various research activities and may see several different researchers on a prearranged schedule, with plenty of time for breaks. The Dementia Research Centre would pay for, or book your travel (and travel for the person accompanying you) and reimburse you for the cost of meals and refreshments during the visit. If you are attending the Dementia Research Centre for two consecutive days we can also make arrangements for you and the person accompanying you to stay in a nearby hotel if this would be more convenient for you; the costs of the hotel stay would be met by the Dementia Research Centre. Unlike clinic appointments there is flexibility about the timing of research visits, and if we cannot finish a particular assessment on the day we may ask if you would be happy to arrange a later date to visit you at home to complete this.

Familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD): Longitudinal, DIAN-L, DIAN-TU & Fibroblast studies

Familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD) is a rare autosomal dominant form of Alzheimer's disease, generally affecting individuals below the age of 60, which results in offspring of affected parents having a 50% chance of developing the disease themselves. It was at UCL, in 1991, where the first FAD gene (APP) was found, and during the last two decades FAD research has accelerated significantly.

At the Dementia Research Centre, we see people with familial Alzheimer's disease as part of four main studies:

  • Longitudinal study of FAD
  • Longitudinal (DIAN-L) study
  • Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Disease Network treatment trial (DIAN-TU)
  • Fibroblast study

Please visit the FAD study page for more information about these.

Longitudinal Study of posterior cortical atrophy (PCA)

This study aims to improve characterisation and diagnosis of posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) and to investigate behavioural interventions/strategies to ameliorate symptoms.

Recruiting people with posterior cortical atrophy and typical Alzheimer’s disease.

What does the Longitudinal Study of PCA Involve?

• A 1 or 2 day annual visit to the DRC (can be a home visit if more appropriate)

• Neuropsychological tasks

• An MRI scan

• A neurological assessment

• A blood test (only at initial visit)

Participants may be approached about one-off studies (e.g. looking at reading or balance abilities).balance abilities).

To find out more about this study, please visit the PCA Longitudinal project website

Seeing What They See (SWTS)

This study is investigating the impact of dementia-related visual impairment on every day activities (e.g. locating objects, getting around independently) in order to develop aids/strategies to minimise such impairment.

Recruiting people with posterior cortical atrophy or typical Alzheimer’s disease.

What does SWTS involve?

1. A full day visit to the PAMELA lab (Tufnell Park, London)

Participants will be asked to walk around or locate objects within a simplified environment

2. A half-day interview at home with researchers about individual coping strategies used. This will be audio recorded.

Participants are not required to take part in both aspects of this study.

To find out more, please visit the SWTS project page.

NSHD Sub-study - MRC National Survey of Health and Development Neuroimaging Sub-study involving the 1946 British Birth Cohort

For more information, please visit the project page. 

C-PLACID: The Computational Platform for the Assessment of Cognition In Dementia

The C-PLACID (‘Computational PLatform for the Assessment of Cognition In Dementia’) project aims to improve cognitive assessments using new technology (e.g. eye-tracking, voice-recording and virtual reality).

Recruiting people with behavioural variant and linguistic forms of frontotemporal dementia, typical Alzheimer’s disease, posterior cortical atrophy and healthy volunteers.

What does C-PLACID involve?

• A day long annual visit for three years to the DRC

• Neuropsychological tasks

• Tracking eye-movements and audio/video recording responses

• Interacting with characters within a simulated scene who will ‘chat’ to you

• Filling out questionnaires

To find out more about this study, please visit the C-PLACID project page.

White Matter Disease

A team of researchers at the DRC focus on understanding how disease of the brain's white matter is related to ageing and dementia. For more information, please visit the White Matter Disease project page.

Auditory information processing in dementia

Auditory information processing in dementia, or the Brain Signatures study, investigates the ways in which the brain’s processing of complex sounds (such as speech, music and environmental noises) goes wrong in different dementia diseases.

Recruiting people with both behavioural and linguistic variants of frontotemporal dementia as well as people with typical Alzheimer’s disease. All participants must have an available caregiver or partner with them during their visits.

What does this study involve?

  • A 2 day visit to the DRC

A combination of :

  • Structural and functional MRI scans
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Autonomic and EEG recordings

To find out more, please visit the Brain Signatures study page.

Chemosensory processing in dementia

This work investigates the effects of dementia diseases on chemosensory processing (perception and recognition of odours and flavours) using joint behavioural and neuroimaging techniques. Our goal is to identify chemosensory signatures of dementia diseases that are relevant to daily life symptoms such as abnormal eating behaviour.

TMS in Alzheimer's disease

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease are usually prescribed Donepezil; a medication that works by boosting the function of certain brain cells. We want to assess how effective Donepezil is by using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

TMS involves stimulating a small part of the brain using a magnetic pulse, which results in a brief (about 1 second) and painless twitch of hand muscles.

The study uses two sets of TMS experiments on the same day: one before, and one after, the daily dose of Donepezil is taken (NB: healthy volunteers will not take the Donepezil). This is repeated two weeks later.

Recruiting people with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy volunteers.

Ultra-high resolution MRI study in Alzheimer's disease 

In order to understand Alzheimer’s disease and the impact it has on the brain, it is necessary to gain a deeper insight into how the disease changes the microstructure of the brain. To date, this can only be done by using invasive methods or post-mortem studies.

However, new ultra-high resolution MRI scanners and methods produce much more detailed and higher quality images which are able to pick up the subtle changes diseases cause in the brain. These new scanners and methods promise exciting new possibilities in the way we diagnose and treat diseases, meaning they could not only transform clinical research but also patient care.

We expect that using ultra-high resolution MRI scanners and methods will allow researchers now, and clinicians in the future, to see brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease without using invasive methods. This opens up the possibility to see disease-related changes earlier than previously possible, study how these changes differ in different forms of Alzheimer’s disease and ultimately decrease the burden on the patients. For more information on this study please visit:  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/drc/ultra-high-resolution-mri-study-posterior-cortical-atrophy-and-alzheimers-disease

Multi-centre studies

DIAN: Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network
  • DIAN is an international research partnership of leading scientists determined to understand a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease that is caused by a gene mutation.
  • Understanding of this form of Alzheimer's disease may provide clues to decoding other dementias and developing dementia treatments.
  • Funded by a multiple-year research grant from the National Institute on Aging, DIAN currently involves 14 outstanding research institutions in the United States, Australia, United Kingdom (the DRC), and Germany.
  • DIAN is currently enrolling study participants who are biological adult children of a parent with a mutated gene known to cause dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s disease. Such individuals may or may not carry the gene themselves and may or may not have disease symptoms.

To find out more about the project, please see the DIAN website.

We also run a number of drug studies, if you are interested in finding more out about these, please email drctrialenquiries@ucl.ac.uk or visit our Clinical Trials page.

If you would like more information about taking part in any of our studies please contact drcresearch@ucl.ac.uk. The DRC also actively supports Join Dementia Research, which matches registrants to appropriate studies throughout the UK. Please visit our "Research" page for more information on how you can participate in research at the DRC.