The Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), the Alzheimer’s Association, and Alzheimer’s Society (UK) aim to support emerging leaders in brain health, aging, and dementia by funding small-scale pilot projects, activities, and/or studies to advance skills, knowledge, activities, and general efforts to delay, prevent and/or mitigate the impact of dementia. The goal of these awards is to both support leadership development of the awardee and to advance pilot projects that improve outcomes in brain health. The program prioritizes activities that demonstrate the potential to evolve into larger regional projects, especially those that use an evidence-based approach to identify, direct change and/or improve care for those with dementia.
Dementia is a pressing global health issue. These pilot projects are important as a first step to advance scientific knowledge in the effort to delay or prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementia, as well as to improve care and quality of life for persons living with the disease.
Since the program was established in 2017, 137 pilots across 42 countries and administrative regions — including Argentina, Belgium, Bermuda, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Jordan, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales), USA, Zimbabwe — have been awarded a total of $3.4 million.
Funded pilot projects range from advocacy to systems change to applied research and are addressing challenges with access to care, stigma, social determinants of brain health, education, and more.
Pilot awardees have secured a total of $72.6 million in funding, with $2.3 million in leveraged funding directly expanding and supporting their pilots. Early indicators of impact and success also include 116 publications in leading journals, 46 presentations at 71 distinct conferences, with 15 pilots receiving media coverage from 62 diverse media outlets.
Increasing Well-being Through Creative Engagement
In times of loneliness, how does one cope? In the absence of a cure for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or COVID-19, it is key that we create ways for elders to be socially connected, provide opportunities for creative engagement, and make health information accessible. Can You Hear Me?, a sing-along audio program that highlights the voices and music of elders, aims to address the stigma of aging and dementia and to increase well-being through creative engagement.
“Through Can You Hear Me?, we hope to create socially connected, inclusive, less lonely communities to reduce the scale and impact of dementia worldwide.” – Cheyenne Mize, Music Therapist, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health
Developing a New Metric to Provide a Qualitative Measure of Brain Structure
What if a dementia diagnosis could be made earlier? Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a neurodegenerative syndrome characterized by prominent and progressive loss of language that often begins in mid-life, with serious implications for family life, work, and social functioning. However, many PPA cases remain misdiagnosed or are only diagnosed at an advanced stage when disease-modifying therapies would be futile. Moreover, clinical progression is highly variable, and it is impossible to determine the cause of PPA based on a patient’s clinical presentation, thus hampering the application of experimental treatments.
“Our results have important implications to design clinical trials testing novel treatments for this challenging disease.” – Ignacio Illán-Gala, MD, PhD, Neurologist, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health
Evaluating the relationship between substance use with the onset of different stages of Alzheimer Disease
At what point does substance use affect one’s risk for dementia? Substance use can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s unclear at what point and how fast this happens. Therefore, evaluation of consumption in people who already have a high risk of dementia is important. This project considers the relationship between substance use and the onset of Alzheimer's disease, aiming to determine its association with age of onset and progression speed of the cognitive decline.
“We need to encourage people to learn more about the first symptoms and signs of dementia.” – Claudia Ramos, Psychiatrist, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health