Dementia describes a collection of symptoms including memory loss, forgetfulness and a loss of judgement that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is most common in people over the age of 65 years. It becomes increasingly common with age, but it is not a normal part of ageing.

The most common types of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and Huntington’s disease. Symptoms include memory loss, difficulty in finding the right words, not understanding what people are saying, difficulty doing day-to-day tasks and changes in personality and mood. Eventually, people with dementia will become unable to care for themselves and will need help with all aspects of daily life. 

Dementia is the greatest cause of disability in Australians over the age of 65 years. Approximately 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia with an estimated global cost of US$1 trillion.1 Due to ageing populations, the number of people living with dementia is projected to more than triple by 2050.


  • PISA Study (Prospective Imaging Study of Ageing) of mid-life Australians including those with high and low genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease to discover biological markers of early neuropathology, identify modifiable risk factors, and establish the very earliest phenotypic and neuronal signs of disease onset
  • identification of genetic risk variants for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, the use of genetic epidemiology to identify causal mechanisms, and the use of gene expression data to detect regulatory variation underlying dementia
  • combining state-of-art neuroimaging and neurophysiological techniques to understand changes to the brain and the body associated with dementia
  • building new models of the brain for dementia research (“brain on a chip” cell cultures), in particular to understand the role of the immune system, and blood-brain barrier, and identify new therapeutic compounds targeting the immune cells of the brain



  1. Livingston, G., Huntley, J., Sommerlad, A., (et al) (2020) Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The Lancet, 396(10248): 413–446.