UCL News


UCL takes the lead with over £9m funding for dementia research

11 December 2013

UCL has been awarded more than £9 million by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to help tackle the challenges associated with dementia.

Old couple by Marcel Oosterwijk

The investment was announced at today's G8 dementia summit and represents a significant proportion of the total £20 million funding awarded by the two organisations for research into dementia prevention and improvements in the quality of life for people with dementia.

There are currently 44 million people in the world living with dementia and by 2050 this number is set to treble to 135 million. Last year Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to tackle the 'national crisis' posed by dementia and this week ministers, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and charities are gathering in London for the G8 dementia summit.

It is imperative to develop an understanding of the needs of those with dementia, their families and the communities they live in.

Paul Boyle, ESRC Chief Executive

The summit aims to develop co-ordinated global action on dementia, stimulating greater investment and innovation in dementia research.

"Dementia is a major challenge for our society," says ESRC Chief Executive Paul Boyle. "It is imperative to develop an understanding of the needs of those with dementia, their families and the communities they live in."

The three UCL-led studies were allocated funding following an extremely competitive selection process. They are:

  • 'Promoting Independence in Dementia' (PRIDE), £3,600,000, led by Professor Martin Orrell (UCL Mental Health Sciences Unit)

The study aims to identify how social and lifestyle changes may help reduce the risk of developing dementia and disability. The researchers will develop and evaluate an effective social intervention (e.g. physical activity, use of computers) to support independence and quality of life for people with early stage dementia and their carers. The team will coordinate a large clinical trial of memory services across the UK and evaluate the intervention in comparison to usual care.

  • 'Managing Agitation and Raising Quality of Life' (MARQUE), £3,156,380, led by Professor Gill Livingston (UCL Mental Health Sciences Unit)

This study aims to increase knowledge of agitation, a distressing symptom which occurs in about 50 per cent of people with moderate or severe dementia. Indicators signify unmet need and can include restlessness, pacing, shouting or even verbal or physical aggression. The person with dementia may be in pain, hungry, thirsty, needing comfort or bored but unable to know or explain this.

The research team will develop, test and implement manuals to train staff about how best to reduce agitation and improve quality of life in care homes and for those people with dementia who are approaching the end of their lives. In addition, the team will mentor and train researchers to build capacity in dementia research.

  • 'Seeing what they see', £2,621,429, led by Dr Sebastian Crutch (UCL Neurodegenerative Diseases)

Dementia-related visual impairment (caused by degeneration of the brain rather than the eye) is a common but greatly under-recognised symptom that contributes to problems as diverse as visual hallucinations, falls and poor diet. This project aims to deliver interventions that compensate for dementia-related visual impairment in the home/care home environment, and to investigate the impact of dementia-related visual impairment upon health-related quality of life in people with dementia and their carers.


Media contact: David Weston

Image: Courtesy of Martin Oosterwijk on Flickr

About the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded through the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research.  Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research.  The NIHR plays a key role in the Government's strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence, and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world.