Stimulating the vagus nerve to improve gait in Parkinson’s

Falls are a major cause of lost independence in people with Parkinson’s. Dr Alison Yarnall is trialling a new method to reduce fall risk and improve walking in people with Parkinson’s, which involves non-invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve.

Close-up photo of a wildflower meadow in bloom

The birds and the bees: Can enjoying nature promote health and wellbeing in older people?

There’s growing evidence that engaging with outdoor spaces promotes health and wellbeing across all ages. Yet as we get older, our changing abilities, motivations and means could prevent us from reaping the rewards of interacting with nature. Professor Birgitta Gatersleben and Dr Ciara O’Brien from the University of Surrey set out to co-design and test a nature-based conservation activity with residents at Whiteley Retirement Village, to see what works best for who, and to empower older people to enjoy the outdoors.

Getting older people back on their feet after unplanned hospital admissions

When older people have unplanned hospital admissions, they often experience muscle strength loss. This can have long-lasting effects when they return home, meaning they’re not able to do everyday tasks that they were previously able to do. Peter Hartley investigated loss of muscle strength in older people during hospital admissions, and whether doing exercise during their hospital stay could prevent it.

Targeting CD148 to ‘switch off’ age-related diseases

Dr James Whiteford and his team at Queen Mary University of London are investigating how to activate a molecular ‘off switch’ that could slow or even reverse age-related diseases such as macular degeneration and lung fibrosis.

7 shelves filled with books

Returning the pleasure of reading to people with dementia

Reading is one of life’s great pleasures, as well as being essential to many daily tasks. Sadly, difficulty reading is also one of the first symptoms of Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA), a rare form of dementia. Neuropsychologist Dr Aida Suárez-González has made it her mission to return this ability to people with PCA, in the process helping people with other neurological conditions too.

Large staircase in front of bay window

Looking in the right places to prevent stair falls in older adults

When and where someone looks, their level of confidence and visual cues in the environment around them all play a part in navigating stairs safely. Professor Mark Hollands and Dr Neil Thomas, from Liverpool John Moores University, used state-of-the-art sensor and motion capture technology to investigate how we might be able to make staircases safer for older people.

Jigsaw puzzle missing one piece before completion

Finding the missing piece of the puzzle in age-related muscle loss

Despite affecting most people over the age of 50, we don’t really know why age-related muscle loss happens. Dr Katarzyna Goljanek-Whysall, now Senior Lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Galway but who led the work when at the University of Liverpool, thinks that oxidised microRNAs could be an important clue to unlocking better treatments for declining muscle function as we get older.

Collection of blue and purple cells

Understanding the science behind Sjögren’s Syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome is a disease where the immune system attacks healthy cells in the glands, leading to dry eyes and mouth but can affect other parts of the body such as joints, lungs, skin and nervous system. Although we can ease the symptoms, we don’t have any good treatments. Dr Elizabeth Jury, Dr Coziana Ciurtin and Lucia Martin-Gutierrez, with their team at UCL, looked at the blood of patients and found their immune systems behaved in two different ways. Identifying these two groups will help us treat this uncomfortable disease.

Walking shoe standing on the ground

New steps to recovery for painful walking in older people

Supervised walking exercise is used to treat leg pain in older people caused by restricted blood flow. But it’s expensive for the NHS to provide and often difficult for patients to complete. Professor Lindsay Bearne and her team trained physiotherapists to provide patients with the knowledge, motivation and skills they needed to engage with walking exercise in their own time outside of a medical facility.

Multiple spherical light bulbs viewed looking up

Long-lived naked mole-rats are helping us understand healthy ageing

To understand how brains age, researchers often study short-lived rats and mice. Another rodent, the naked mole rat, lives for decades and ages healthily. Professor Ewan St. John Smith and his team are examining this unusual animal to see whether its unique ageing biology can unlock new ways to treat and cure neurodegenerative diseases.

Photo of human left hand in stream of light

Spotting dementia earlier in the deaf community using an automated screening tool

Within the older British Sign Language community, dementia can show itself as changes in the way someone signs – but these subtle changes are hard to spot by those who don’t use sign language. Dr Anastasia Angelopoulou and her team have developed an automated machine learning tool that can spot these changes. The tool will help identify the early stages of dementia among older users of sign language – ensuring they get the right support quicker.

Close-up photo of walnuts on a dark background

Can ‘brain training’ pass the test? Exploring whether people with dementia can brain train at home

Brain training is a fun and simple intervention to keep minds active in older age. However, there are many unknowns. What benefits does it have on the brain? And can people living with dementia realistically brain train using technology they’re not necessarily familiar with? Dr Lucy Beishon wanted to find out whether people living with dementia can do brain training at home using a computer, and to see if it has potential to bring benefits.