Are there links between visual impairment, heart surgery and dementia? That is what Cognitive Neuroscientists Dr Hannah Keage and Dr Tobias Loetscher will investigate over the next four years. They will use their NHMRC fellowship funds to answer those questions. The two researchers are based in the University of South Australia’s Cognitive Ageing and Impairment Neurosciences (CAIN) laboratory at the Magill campus.
Are you caring for an elderly loved one suffering from dementia? In that case this study may prove to be very helpful for you. Particularly if your loved one suffers from visual problems or needs heart surgery. Or maybe they have already had heart surgery and appear to be developing dementia. These studies are being made possible by a $1.4 million grant.
Dr. Keage’s $718,000 project will look at the cognitive impacts of heart surgeries in older adults. These individuals are typically vulnerable to developing dementia due to long histories of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, Dr. Keage says “Older adults with cardiovascular disease are at risk of dementia. Also those with associated conditions such as Type II diabetes, obesity and hypertension.” She also says heart surgery is an additive risk factor for cognitive decline. Furthermore they can look at intervention strategies to help arrest dementia after surgery.
Dr Loetscher will use his $712,000 NHMRC grant to understand the visual problems of dementia sufferers. Furthermore, Dr Loetscher says “More than half the people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are affected by visual impairments. Particularly perceiving contrasts, depth and motion. Further, these visual problems may appear before signs of memory loss.” Part of his research will involve assessing the eye movements and cognitive function of older people. Moreover the research will cover a period of a few years. The aim is to see if certain visual abnormalities predict the development and progression of cognitive impairments.
Simple things can assist dementia sufferers with a visual impairment. For instance, clear contrasts between the colours of walls and doors. This will help them find their way around. As will dinner plates that are contrasted with tablecloths.
People with dementia often don’t drink or eat enough. Sometimes it is because they forget or are not hungry. However, it may also be because they can’t see their food clearly without distinct contrasts on a dining table. The findings of the research will help families adapt the individual homes of people living with dementia.
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