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GBHI Annual Conference Considers Opportunities for Brain Health

From May 10–14, members of the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) community—including Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health, faculty, staff, regional mentors, and guests—gathered at the GBHI Annual Conference and Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) Satellite Symposium to consider opportunities to improve brain health and to reduce the scale and impact of dementia worldwide. The meetings were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Focusing on Growth and Inclusion

To open the GBHI Annual Conference, Brian Lawlor, Deputy Executive Director of GBHI, welcomed more than 130 GBHI community members from over 30 countries. Lawlor emphasized the continued opportunities for growth in the face of new global challenges that have emerged in the past year.

“There is a growing belief and confidence that by taking a brain health approach, we can turn the fear and stigma of dementia inside out,” said Lawlor. “GBHI is playing a major part in this brain health revolution.”

As a key part of the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health program, the conference is an opportunity for Atlantic Fellows to focus on leadership development, connect with fellows, foster collaboration, deepen ties with regional mentors, and gain new perspectives, including those of care partners and persons with dementia.

“Dementia doesn't just affect individuals,” said Iracema Leroi, GBHI faculty member. “It affects entire families through its impact, particularly people who become care partners as dementia progresses.”

Leroi led “From Empathy to Action,” a session focused on the global challenge of care partnership for people with dementia. The session included personal stories and experiences from care partners from Ireland, Kenya and Chile, who emphasized the significant and many universal challenges of care partners, as well as the benefits of connecting with others.

"Being understood is all it took,” said Ken Greaney, one of the care partners. “I finally realized we were not alone."

The conference also included sessions on leadership development, funding and networking opportunities, mentorship, and the Pilot Awards for Global Brain Health Leaders, which, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Society UK, provides funding for small-scale dementia-related pilot projects for Atlantic Fellows.

GBHI Annual Conference 2021 Slide

Exploring Dementia Research, Care and Awareness

The week of activities included the AAIC Satellite Symposium, co-hosted by GBHI, on May 12–13. Participants from nearly 90 countries gathered to explore emerging dementia research care, and awareness with a focus on the Mediterranean region.

“This work is so important,” said Maria Carrillo, Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Association in her opening remarks. “We need to partner with all of you to continue to share and learn and conquer challenges on a global scale.”

Atlantic Fellows presented nearly 100 posters, including ten selected for “lightning round” presentations on topics including frontotemporal dementia, dementia detection, genetics, prevention/risk reduction and marginalized groups.

Atlantic Fellows Susanne Röhr and Adolfo Garcia won the top prizes for their presentations, “Social Factors in Lifestyle for Brain Health: Who to Target for Dementia Risk Reduction?” and “Linguistic Markers of Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia: Automated Speech Analysis and Multimodal Signatures of Text Comprehension,” respectively.

To close the symposium, Atlantic Fellows along with dementia advocates Helen Rochford-Brennan and Carmel Geoghegan, presented an original short film, “At the Table," that explored inclusion and values-based dementia education, research and care. The film embraced the challenges of collaborating and communicating virtually. The creators emphasized the importance of including the perspectives of care partners and persons living with dementia.

“Our voices need to be heard,” said Rochford-Brennan. “We need to have proper policies and procedures around the world about how we are cared for. We need to be encouraged and we need to be supported. We still have a voice.”

The AAIC Satellite Symposium virtual platform—which includes posters, on-demand video, and more—remains open to International Society to Advance Alzheimer's Research and Treatment (ISTAART) members through June 13, 2021.

Atlantic Fellows Berence Werle and Milton Lopez appear in "At the Table," an original short film.

Atlantic Fellows Berenice Werle and Milton Lopez appear in "At the Table," an original short film screened at the AAIC Satellite Symposium.