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. 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.
Implementing a Dementia Training Program in Ecuador
Lack of dementia diagnostic tools is a global issue, as many cases worldwide are misdiagnosed. Given limited dementia training in the field, especially in developing countries like Ecuador, these facts raise concerns about how well primary care doctors can recognize dementia symptoms. These shortcomings present an opportunity for healthcare providers to identify the symptoms of dementia. This project emphasizes the need to improve the education and training for physicians to recognize and diagnose dementia, highlighting the need to create structures within the national healthcare system to care for patients with dementia in Ecuador.
“I live convinced that there is not an impossible.” – Martha Unaucho Pilalumbo, Neurologist, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health
Culturally Adapting a Cognitive Training Program: an Intervention for Adults Aging with HIV
More than three-quarters of people with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa, including Zimbabwe. HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND)—consisting of HIV-associated dementia, mild neurocognitive disorder, and asymptomatic neurocognitive impairment—are one of the biggest threats to brain health in this region. This project will offer a robust cognitive training program to improve the brain health of adults aging with HIV. Subsequently, it will be tested in a randomized control study on cognitive rehabilitation of adults with HAND.
“We need to ensure the interventions and evidence-based practices for cognitive impairment are also accessible to low income countries.”Primrose Nyamayaro, Mental Health Researcher, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health
Stories in the Moment: Using Dance to Build Spaces of Belonging with People Living with Dementia
People living with dementia inevitably experience shifts in their modes and capacities for expression which influence their ability to feel connected to the communities around them. They also often experience widespread stigma which reduces the size of their social networks. But meaningful connection is paramount for maintaining dignity and extending a sense of purpose. Stories in the Moment is partnering with people living with dementia online and in person, to amplify their expressive voices through co-creative dance.
“All of us have stories to tell. And when we connect together to discover and co-create these stories through dance, we cultivate new narratives that celebrate our individuality while amplifying our unity.” – Magda Kaczmarska, Dance Artist, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health
Facebook Interaction as a Potential Marker of Cognitive Decline
Predicting cognitive decline is a critical step to manage dementia. Typically clinical, biochemical, or imaging data is used to develop such early predictive tools. However, this project opts for a different approach: social media. Tapping into a popular social media network presents a unique opportunity to collect a time series of historical data, which can be used to make predictions about future cognitive status. The goal is to develop tools that can be used to identify at-risk patients and provide a pathway to early intervention.
“We are using Facebook activities to build an artificial intelligence (AI) model that can predict the possibility of cognitive impairment and advise those seeking medical consultation.” – Mohamed Salama, Neuroscientist, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health