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Early life behaviours affect late-onset dementia

With an increasing worldwide elderly population, the incidence and prevalence of dementia is on the rise. An EU-funded project contributed to research in this area, determining biomarkers for early detection and prediction as well as for monitoring when the disease is already present and treatment is necessary.
Early life behaviours affect late-onset dementia
TAR-DNA-binding-protein-43 (TDP-43) is a protein-aggregating biomarker of dementia first implicated in the biology of the disease in 2006. However, its relevance to the population remained unknown. The 'Significance of TDP-43 in the population in relation to dementia' (STPRD) project was set up to assess the significance of TDP-43 in relation to dementia, in a population-based sample of elderly people.

Making use of the European Clinicopathological Studies in Europe (EClipSE) database as well as project-generated neuropathological data, STPRD investigated behavioural and biological correlates of a diagnosis of clinical dementia in late life, and factors that affect disease progression. Findings on the significance of TDP-43 pathology for dementia in late life, along with associated symptomatology and neuropathology, are under review by various scientific journals.

Among other results and findings, the study emphasised that although dementia only manifests later on in life, health and behaviours over an individual's entire life course affect its onset and progression. For example, those with more early-life education are at lower risk of dementia in late life, as they are better able to cognitively cope with the presence of neuropathological problems. STPRD research also underlined that the underlying neuropathology of late life dementia is more complex than originally thought. Another project finding pointed to some sleep characteristics — for example, napping and excessive day-time sleepiness — being predictive of cognitive decline in late life over a 10-year time period.

Project findings will enhance our understanding of the pathological basis of late life dementia and have important implications for the diagnosis, management and treatment of related syndromes. They will also contribute to lessening the socioeconomic burdens associated with the disease.

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