AAIC Neuroscience Next in Ireland: The Next Generation of Alzheimer's and Dementia Researchers

In this perspective, Sára Zsadányi, Francesca Farina, and Agustín Ibáñez discuss the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC)—Neuroscience Next, a recent event that showcased the latest research from the next generation of dementia scientists and clinicians. 

AAIC Neuro Next speaker group

Left to right: Brian Lawlor (GBHI), Murieann Irish (University of Sydney), Agustín Ibáñez (GBHI), Claudia Suemoto (University of São Paulo), Claire Sexton (Alzheimer's Association) and Francesca Farina (University of Chicago) at the Dublin Hub. Photos: Paul Sharp, Sharppix 

This April, the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) at Trinity College Dublin turned into a bustling hybrid hub of the AAIC Neuroscience Next conference, as professionals in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias gathered for an exciting lineup of talks, insights, and partnerships. AAIC Neuroscience Next was hosted at seven hubs across the world, including Dublin, San Francisco and Addis Ababa, and attendees were treated to live broadcasts on a range of topics from awareness and prevention to diagnosis and treatment.

At the Dublin hub, we had the pleasure of hosting a group of exceptional international and national speakers. In our first plenary session, Muireann Irish, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sydney, discussed motivational disturbances as an overlooked clinical feature, and her mapping of distinct motivational profiles across dementia syndromes. 

In the second plenary, Claudio Suemoto, Associate Professor at the University of São Paulo, advocated for lifestyle risk reduction in Alzheimer’s and related dementias. She focused on studies conducted in Latin America, but highlighted the variability between countries, regions, and groups with different socio-economic backgrounds. An important message from Dr Suemoto’s talk is that we must move away from the idea that preventative interventions should start in older age. Instead, we should promote a life course approach to dementia prevention, starting as early as the first years of education.

AAIC Neuro Next Elul Lakew speaking

Atlantic Fellow, Elul Lakew considers stigma and public awareness of brain conditions in Ethiopia.

One highlight was the session on global perspectives with GBHI’s Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health gathered from across the world. In this session, Sandra Baez, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Los Andes University, talked about her work on promoting brain health in Colombian women caregivers. Elul Lakew, Clinical Psychologist and mental health advocate from Ethiopia, discussed the pervasive stigma around conversations on brain health—a topic that was also a big focus of the hybrid hub in Ethiopia. Hailing from Mexico, geriatrician Sara Solis talked about social inclusion of people with dementia in Mexico, and Corrina Grimes, National Deputy Director in NHS England, spoke about diversity and leadership in healthcare policy development. Altogether, this session showcased the global reach and breath of work within the GBHI community.

A major aim of the conference was to provide practical sessions and workshops tailored to our early career professionals. We hosted skills workshops on computational methods, grant writing, and patient and public voice (PPV) that provided valuable training and networking opportunities for attendees. In particular, the PPV workshop gave attendees the opportunity to learn about the lived experience of dementia from advocates Kevin and Helena Quaid, and family carer Eve Curran (members of GBHI's Lived Experience Group).

Another notable and particularly novel aspect of the event was the live recording of a Dementia Researcher podcast episode, called ‘Worlds Apart: The Migration of Minds in Dementia Research & Advocacy’. In line with the spirit of the hub here in Dublin, three speakers, Muireann Irish, Claudia Suemoto and Elul Lakew, discussed their lives as researchers moving across the world for their work.

AAIC Neuro Next PPV workshop

Attendees at the public and patient voice in research workshop.

We were also grateful to have four early career researchers join us during the live broadcasted session. This session began with Florencia Altschuler from Universidad de Sant Andrés, who showed the first study of white matter hyperintensities in the Latin American region. Luiza Santos Machado from the University of Gothenburg discussed brain changes in long COVID, with a focus on metabolic networks. Next, Simone Ryan, an occupational therapist from the University of Galway, demonstrated a new cognitive stimulation intervention, CS-ADL, for caregivers and participants with mild-moderate dementia. Participants reported a positive impact on mood, communication, daily routine, and the opportunity to form connections with peers in the program. Finally, Qing Qi from Trinity College Dublin demonstrated her work on mid-life sex differences in the brain, driven by the precuneus and moderated by genetic risk through APOE4. The early career representation at our hub gives us hope that the next generation of leaders will continue to conduct innovative and exciting work in brain health and dementia prevention.

Overall, the GBHI AAIC Neuroscience Next Hybrid Hub event in Dublin was a resounding success. It brought together a diverse group of researchers and clinicians to share their work and explore new avenues for collaboration. This event shows us just how important it is to support the next generation of researchers, and foster connections and collaborations to promote brain health for everyone across the life course.

View full event program