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NIHR invests £11m in digital to diagnose dementia earlier

More than £10m of funding will be funnelled into the development of new digital approaches to enable faster and earlier dementia diagnoses, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has announced.

With dementia affecting almost one million people in the UK, research into how clinicians can improve the treatment of the condition is a top priority not only for the NIHR, but for the Department of Health and Social Care too.

This new round of investment has been awarded via the NIHR’s Invention for Innovation funding programme, with six total projects given the moneys required to get their work off the ground.

These include:

  • £1,948,424 for Dr Anne Corbett and the University of Exeter to explore whether a new app can support the monitoring of brain health in patients with early memory problems.
  • £1,975,285 for Dr Dennis Chan and University College London to evaluate whether using wearable augmented reality devices and memory and spatial navigation tests can help detect Alzheimer’s disease in its earliest stages.
  • £1,509,552 for Professor David Sharp and the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine to develop a method of identifying people with early signs of dementia by measuring behaviour changes in people’s sleep.
  • £2,049,967 for Professor Sarah Pendlebury to utilise electronic patient records and brain scans to spot elderly hospital patients who are at high risk of dementia.
  • £1,499,639 for Dr George Stothart and the University of Bath to create an image-recognition test that establishes whether a patient can remember a picture or not and is showing early signs of dementia.
  • £1,787,342 for Dr Charles Marshall and Queen Mary University of London to investigate new potentially cost-effective hearing tests that can assess early brain changes in dementia.

NIHR Chief Executive, Professor Lucy Chappell, said: “New technologies have the potential to radically transform healthcare for the future. Improving methods for treating and living with dementia is work of vital public interest.

“These studies will also support the dementia healthcare mission in the Life Science Vision, as we look for new ways of understanding whether drugs are working by using digital biomarkers. Such significant investment in these important projects shows that the UK is at the cutting edge of research into one of the most pressing health and care issues of our time.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, added: “New technologies are helping to ensure that people are diagnosed sooner, treated faster and have the best possible care. These projects are developing reliable ways to detect dementia earlier through innovative devices such as a sensor that fits under a mattress to monitor changes in sleep patterns.”

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