Principal Investigator: Professor Joanna Wardlaw

Lead institution: University of Edinburgh

Award amount: £300,000

The purpose of this grant was to purchase a new, state-of-the-art, brain research dedicated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to continue research on:

  • The mechanisms, treatment and prevention of common diseases that affect older people such as ischaemic, haemorrhagic and small vessel stroke or dementia
  • How events occurring in early life influence healthy ageing and resilience
  • Susceptibility to these diseases in later life.

There are currently few treatments or effective preventions for stroke or dementia. Advanced MR imaging is an essential clinical research tool for advancing understanding of the causes, consequences of and treatment for ageing-related cognitive and physical decline, stroke and dementia. Some of the areas of research that will use the new scanner for advanced MR brain imaging are:

  1. Cerebral microvascular disease, which causes up to 45% of dementias and 20% of strokes. The research focuses on causes of microvascular and brain damage, risk factors across the life-course and developing treatments and running clinical trials.
  2. Delirium, which affects 15% of hospital-admitted patients aged over 65 years of age and increases dementia risk, but is poorly understood. The research will address the role of brain microvessel damage and how delirium increases the risk of dementia.
  3. Brain haemorrhage, which is a common cause of disability or death in older people, commonly related to amyloid angiopathy and associated with dementia. The research will address causes and risk factors for arteriolar damage and prevention.
  4. Resilience in cognitive ageing, which is part of several studies including the 1000-strong Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. Research links imaging-detected brain and microvascular damage to life course effects on cognition.

The scanner is located in the main South-east Scotland regional hospital, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which is also situated on Edinburgh University’s main Medical Research Campus, where all ageing and neuroscience clinical services, clinical and basic neuroscience, ageing and dementia research are located.

The scanner was installed between August and September 2016 and the first patients were scanned in November. Since then the scanner has led to:

  • Four new projects and five further studies being set up, with several other projects in the planning stage
  • Funding secured from the UK Dementia Research Initiative, Fondation Leducq and EU Horizon 2020 (SVDs@Target), Edinburgh Dementia Research Centre, The Row Fogo Centre for Research into Ageing and the Brain, the Stroke Association, British Heart Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Society.