5 July 2019
How CANTAB is helping to fast track dementia research – DPUK’s Great Minds
With more than two million participants, Dementias Platform UK is a national effort to make real strides in tackling dementia. Leona Wolters from the initiative shared with us the vital role that CANTAB plays in this large-scale cohort study.
What is Dementias Platform UK?
One of the biggest health crises the UK faces today is the growing number of people living with dementia. Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) is a public-private partnership funded by the Medical Research Council that works with researchers from universities and industry to develop effective treatments for dementia. DPUK’s Data Portal gives researchers access to detailed health information from more than two million participants from over 40 long-term health studies in a single, secure environment to answer key research questions more rapidly.
What is DPUK’s new clinical studies register - Great Minds?
Cohort members are highly valuable to clinical studies due to the wealth of information that is collected about their medical history, lifestyle, genetics, and more. To enable better recruitment to dementia studies, DPUK is piloting a new clinical studies register called Great Minds to recruit cohort members. Members of Great Minds are asked to complete health and mood questionnaires and the CANTAB Paired Associate Learning and Spatial Working Memory tasks every six months. There is also the option for members to use the Mezurio app, developed by the Big Data Institute in Oxford, which collects additional cognitive data at regular intervals.
Researchers, who are looking for volunteers with specific characteristics for clinical studies, will be able to access the extensive health and up-to-date cognitive data of Great Minds’ members and identify the most suitable people for their studies. Finding the right participants for studies is critical as it saves valuable time and resources for future dementia studies. By working with healthy, well-characterised volunteers, scientists will be able to track changes in the brain and test treatments early in any disease progression.
We invited our first pilot group of participants from the Imperial College’s Airwave study group at the beginning of 2019. We have found that around 10% of those approached join Great Minds and we are currently improving the process based on feedback we received. Over the coming years, we are expecting Great Minds to expand as we begin offering the platform to other cohort study teams.
Why are DPUK using CANTAB?
Members of Great Minds are recruited as ‘healthy’ volunteers, however, we are looking for signs of cognitive decline and so it is crucial to use validated cognitive tests. These tests build on a large normative database of healthy controls and people with neurodegenerative conditions. We require a proven online assessment, as members complete the cognitive tasks in their own home and at regular time points, without a researcher present. Therefore using online cognitive tests that are user-friendly, and can be self-led, is very important. CANTAB fulfils all of these criteria.
Great Minds’ scientists and developers have enjoyed working with the Cambridge Cognition team. Our systems were easily integrated due to well-documented guides and the Cambridge Cognition team always provided timely support when needed.
Leona Wolters, Great Minds - DPUK