Nimhans officially announced its collaboration with the University of Southern California (USC) for a study on brain ageing on Thursday.
The ‘India ENIGMA Initiative for Global Aging and Mental Health’ study is a five-year research project, with a funding of Rs 23 crore by the National Institute of Health, USA.
The study aims to understand the factors contributing to brain ageing in the Indian population, that can lead to increased risk of Alzheimer’s and related disorders.
The study will be part of the work of the global ENIGMA (Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis) consortium, which has been studying brain disorders.
“Currently 10% of the Indian population is aged over 60 years. This is estimated to increase to 20% by 2050. A threefold increase in dementia is projected in India in the next 30 years,” said Dr Paul M Thompson of USC, who is also ENIGMA Director.
As per 2016 data, 88 lakh people in India had dementia. “There is a knowledge gap on what contributes to successful brain ageing. The study will explore what makes people age successfully, and how to keep the brain active and healthy into old age.”
He explained how technologies, such as diffusion MRI, can show multiple pathways in the brain and PET scans can track the spread of Alzheimer’s.
The Nimhans study will involve 400 participants, all aged above 55 years, who may be healthy, have Alzheimer’s or have mild cognitive impairment. “For the study, detailed blood tests will be done to check for signs of the disease, along with mental tests and direct images of the brain,” said Dr Thompson.
Principal investigator of the project and Nimhans professor Dr John P John said that the study participants are being recruited now. “We have called back 100 people who have participated in previous studies, so we can compare their current and previous brain scans, blood test results, etc.” Other than that, Nimhans is reaching out to senior citizens in both urban and rural areas to volunteer. The institute’s patients can volunteer too.
Nimhans Director Dr Pratima Murthy said the institute is planning to train young people who can give home care to dementia patients.