Tim Whitfield

Tim Whitfield

Prior to being awarded this DMT research training fellowship, I worked in NHS research and development where I was responsible for the coordination of dementia studies. Latterly, I had the opportunity to work intensively on a trial of a mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) for people with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), called “SCD-WELL”. SCD is a condition whereby a person feels their memory is declining, but who scores normally on hospital tests. Nonetheless, this group remains at twice the risk of future cognitive decline. This is now the focus of my PhD project, entitled ‘Further Evaluation of SCD-WELL: mindfulness Therapy for older adults (FEATHER).’ I will be based at University College London and the SCD-WELL study is overseen by Dr Natalie Marchant, who supervises my PhD, alongside Dr Zuzana Walker.

Multiple studies have found that anxiety increases the risk of cognitive decline in older persons, while extensive evidence supports the use of MBIs for reducing anxiety. However, MBIs have mostly been trialled in working-age adults, with few studies in older persons. The SCD-WELL study aims to address this, by recruiting 140 older adults with SCD to a trial of an MBI. My PhD builds on the main study, by using this dataset to answer further important questions. I will evaluate the efficacy of the MBI to (i) improve memory/executive function; (ii) decrease depressive symptoms; and (iii) improve quality of life. I will also seek to identify factors that ‘mediate’ the relationship between SCD and depression. Lastly, I will conduct a meta-analysis of MBIs for older persons. The successful completion of my PhD will greatly improve the evidence base for MBIs for older persons and SCD.