23 September 2020
CANTAB Research Grant funds new ways to assess vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID) in chronic lung disease
Dr Simone De Luca recently received the 2020 CANTAB Research Grant primary award for her project: “New ways to assess vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID) in chronic lung disease”. We spoke to her about the impact winning would have on her research.
I would like to thank Cambridge Cognition for selecting me as the winner of the 2020 CANTAB Research Grant. I was absolutely thrilled to find out that I had received this award given the competitive nature of the grant. I have a particular interest in investigating the sustained impacts of COPD on neurological and brain impairments and am committed to a career in medical research and academia. To set myself on this career path and extend my skill set, I have partnered with Prof Vlahos, a world-leader in respiratory pharmacology and respiratory clinician Prof McDonald at Austin Health in Australia to assess vascular cognitive impairment and dementia in chronic lung disease.
What inspired or motivated you to undertake this research project?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is currently incurable and much of the disease burden and health care costs are associated with the management of its comorbidities. COPD is the 4th leading cause of death worldwide. Memory loss and dementia comorbidities contribute to a substantial burden of COPD-related morbidity, by impairing quality of life, reducing adherence to medications, and increasing healthcare utilization. Surprisingly, the current diagnostic tools do not effectively capture all cognitive domains in COPD patients and this inspired me to work alongside respiratory physicians and clinical neuropsychologists to develop and validate a comprehensive battery of cognitive testing using touchscreen technology in COPD patients (as well as in members of the general community with verbal difficulties) to assess memory loss more effectively and work towards a viable therapeutic approach to prevent / reduce COPD related memory loss. I hope that the development and validation of a comprehensive battery of cognitive testing using touchscreen technology will contribute to a more accurate diagnosis of memory impairments and allow us to work towards a viable therapeutic approach to prevent / reduce COPD related memory loss.
Cognitive status will be assessed in patients with or without COPD and the battery of CANTAB tests chosen to be most suitable for our cohort are:
- Motor Screening Task (MOT) to determine the patient's ability to perform the requisite motor responses
- Paired Associate Learning (PAL) to assess object-location associative memory
- Spatial Working Memory (SWM) to examine attention and working memory
- Reaction Time (RTI) to assess processing speed
Alongside neuropsychological testing, we will also evaluate systemic inflammation, oxidative stress markers and serum clusterin biomarker levels and perform correlation analyses between levels of systemic inflammation / oxidative stress and VCID in these patients.
How important was funding from Cambridge Cognition for your work?
This grant is crucial in supporting me to extend my expertise in neurophysiology to the debilitating disease of COPD and the associated cognitive impairment and dementia comorbidities. This funding will allow me to further understand the mechanisms behind the development and progression of cognitive impairments in COPD and identification of new therapeutic targets for treatment of the disease. Individual funding as an early career research can be very scarce and obtaining this grant will provide a valuable opportunity to further develop and progress my work and strengthen my applications for additional national and international funding.
Dr Simone De Luca, School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University, Australia.