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Cognitive health is important for optimal ageing. Cognitive decline is not inevitable, although many of us will experience some minor changes in our memory and thinking as we age. The Institute is evaluating interventions to improve cognitive health at all ages and reduce risk of dementia. Mental health can be affected by social isolation and life changes occurring in later life.

The UNSW Ageing Futures Institute brings together leading researchers in cognition, psychology, neuroscience, medicine, public health, art and design to tackle the wide-ranging issues in this research theme.

Current Projects

2020 UNSW Ageing Futures Seed Funding Projects

Lead investigator: Dr Adrienne Withall | Co-lead investigator: Prof Kaarin Anstey

This pilot project will examine the interplay between the gut microbiome and inflammatory markers in pre-frail community dwelling older people aged 60-70 years, and help us to better understand how dietary interventions can modulate the microbial composition of the gut and influence physical and cognitive function. This work represents a new collaboration between researchers in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, the Microbiome Research Centre, the School of Psychology, and clinicians from Endocrinology and Geriatrics within the South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service. This pilot study will inform future studies involving manipulation of the gut microbiome through dietary interventions, potentially transforming treatments to enable a holistic ageing brain and body health "prescription" that is specific, sensitive and most importantly easily adopted and well accepted by consumers.
Lead Investigator: Dr Lauriane Juge | Co-lead investigator: Dr Ruth Peters

Poor sleep quality increases the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. It is considered to be an underlying cause of cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD), a common feature of the ageing brain that affects the small vessels of the brain. The proposed project will provide proof of concept and initial evidence of the effect of nocturnal cardiovascular surges and hypoxia, due to normal ageing and sleep breathing disorders, on the development of small vessel vasculopathy in CSVD using advanced MRI techniques.
2019 UNSW Ageing Futures Seed Funding Projects

Lead investigator: Dr Sophie Andrews

The goal of the current project is to establish the role that habits play in maintaining physical activity levels in older adults, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods. These findings will first be applied to create a new habits-based behaviour change module to be trialed within a new physical activity randomised controlled trial (RCT). Additionally, these results will reveal fundamental characteristics of human behaviour that are at the core of interventions in a wide range of areas, and hence have the potential to have far reaching applications for the ageing population. The interdisciplinary team comprises researchers with expertise essential for this project: neuropsychology, exercise and cognition (CI Andrews), dementia risk reduction interventions and population health (CI Anstey), physical activity and falls prevention interventions (CI Delbaere), basic neuroscience and psychology of habits (CI Killcross) and qualitative psychology research methodology (CI Brady).
Lead investigator: Dr Scherazad Kootar

Stress is one of the risk factors for triggering dementia and is markedly reflected by elevated levels of cortisol both in patients and mice models of Alzheimer’s disease. For the moment, there is no gold standard to measure stress in cognitive decline. The challenge faced by researchers studying stress is inter and intra-individual variation and the type, duration and intensity of the stress event or events. Stressful life events and traumatic experiences are known to affect memory functioning and cognition. However, the underlying mechanism of these processes is still not clear. Our aim is to develop an algorithm using different anxiety and stress-related factors to predict cognitive decline. The interdisciplinary team consist of researchers with unique expertise- stress mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases (Dr Kootar); dementia risk reduction, cognition and population health (Prof Anstey); trauma, stress and anxiety especially working with Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans (Prof Bryant); and neuropsychology and cognition (Dr Andrews).
Lead Investigator: Cognition, Brain and Mental Health
Professor Kaarin Anstey is an ARC Laureate and Director of the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute. Kaarin’s research programs focus on the causes, consequences and prevention of cognitive decline and dementia. She has led development of dementia risk assessment tools and dementia risk reduction interventions. Kaarin also conducts research into older driver safety and evaluates interventions to promote mobility and healthy ageing. She is a Director of the NHMRC Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration (DCRC) and Co-Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR). Kaarin is also Chair of the International Research Network on Dementia Prevention (IRNDP).