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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. Read our research studies brochure to download a booklet of our current research studies. 

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 Investigation of frontotemporal dementia (LIFTD)

The ‘Longitudinal Investigation of FTD’ project studies people with frontotemporal dementia to understand complex symptoms, how it changes over time and the impact of brain changes (e.g. on perception of humour, music, pain, temperature or speech).

Recruiting people with behavioural and linguistic variants of frontotemporal dementia, typical Alzheimer’s disease and healthy volunteers.

What does LIFTD involve?

• An annual visit to the DRC for three years

• Neuropsychological tasks

• An MRI brain scan

• A blood test to donate a small amount of blood

• To consider having a lumbar puncture to donate a small amount of spinal fluid.

• Neurological assessment

• Having photographs taken of the retina

For more information, please visit the LIFTD study page

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 (STWS)

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 NHSD Sub-study 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.

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.

GENFI: Genetic Frontotemporal dementia Initiative

This project studies people who have the genetic forms of frontotemporal dementia, with problems in the genes called progranulin, tau and C9orf72.

Recruiting anyone who has genetic frontotemporal dementia, as well as the siblings and children of people with genetic frontotemporal dementia.

What does GENFI involve?

• At least 1 annual assessment for three years

• Giving a medical history

• A physical examination

• Neuropsychological tasks

• A blood test to donate a small amount of blood

• A lumbar puncture to donate a small amount of spinal fluid

• An MRI and PET scan (PET scan for the first year only).

To find out more, please visit the GENFI project page or the GENFI 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.