Healthy Brain Ageing Clinic - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Healthy Brain Ageing Clinic

Group of older people

A ground-breaking research program that supports you to reduce your dementia risk through lifestyle changes.

Research shows that 30-50% of the risk for developing dementia is attributed to our lifestyle choices. This means that, by adopting healthy habits, you have the power to influence the healthy ageing of your brain, and therefore the quality of your later life. You can reduce your risk by improving your physical activity, diet, weight, blood pressure, mood, stress levels and social connections.

The Healthy Brain Ageing Clinic is a ground-breaking research program that supports participants to adopt lifestyle strategies shown to reduce dementia risk. By participating you will help us answer important questions about the causes of cognitive decline in ageing and dementia, and how it can be prevented.

Older aged people smiling
Mixed age group smiling

Who the Healthy Brain Ageing Clinic is for

We seek participants who:

  • Are aged 50 – 85 years
  • Have no serious health conditions
  • Do not currently have dementia
  • Are willing to have tests of medical functioning and cognition

Benefits of participating

Receive a report of your dementia risk

At the completion of your assessments, a comprehensive report of your results will be sent to your GP so you can together discuss your current dementia risk profile. In addition, you will receive an individualised report detailing your personal dementia risk profile and highlighting the lifestyle factors you can focus on to reduce your risk.

Receive support to adopt healthy lifestyle changes

You may be invited to participate in a lifestyle intervention program designed to help you reduce your risk of dementia.

Assist vital research

Dementia is one of the biggest health challenges facing Australia and you can assist us to better understand how it can be prevented and diagnosed early.

Elderly client with clinician

About our research

The Healthy Brain Ageing Clinic conducts world-class research into the cause of cognitive decline in ageing and dementia and how to reduce dementia risk through lifestyle programs.

Our research team assesses participants’ current dementia risk profile and offers lifestyle programs aimed at reducing this risk. The research will determine if improvements in memory, thinking and mood can be brought about by these lifestyle interventions, and identify brain changes associated with improvement.

We also aim to address the lack of known early indicators of cognitive change, which is important for identifying people at risk of cognitive decline and intervening early.

This is the first research program to investigate the mechanisms underlying healthy brain ageing through integrating cutting-edge neuroimaging and biomarker analysis.​

What the research involves

The following assessments help our important research and allow us to build your individualised dementia risk report (see 'Benefits of participating')

Self-report questionnaires

To be completed before you attend the clinic, the questionnaires are about your wellbeing, mood, day-to-day functioning and sleep quality. A family member or partner will be offered the opportunity to complete similar questionnaires. They take 45-60 mins to complete.

Mood assessment

In the mood assessment you’re asked questions about your mood and mental health history. If you feel uncomfortable answering questions about this, experienced psychologists at the clinic can offer support and assistance. This assessment will take one hour.

Cognitive assessment

This examines cognitive functions, including concentration, memory and problem-solving. You will be asked about any concerns you may have about your cognition, and you will complete a range of tasks including answering questions and ‘paper and pencil’ style tasks. This assessment will take one hour.

Medical assessment

A doctor will ask questions about your medical history and mental health and take biomedical measurements (eg height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, waist circumference). This assessment will take one hour.

Brain imaging scan

You will have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to identify microscopic changes in the brain that can signal the emergence of dementia long before more obvious changes, such as memory loss. It is non-invasive and safe and requires you to lie still in the scanner for approximately 45 minutes.

EEG (Electroencephalogram)

This is a non-invasive way to measure your brain activity. You will be asked to wear a headcap containing sensors that record the electrical activity generated by your brain. This assessment will take approximately 30 minutes and will involve doing short computerized-attention tasks while having your brain activity recorded.

Cerebrovascular assessment

This is a non-invasive way to measure your brain blood flow. An ultrasound probe will be positioned at the temporal sites of your head and secured with a headframe. You will be asked to do a short cognitive task, a mild physical exertion task, and a breathing task, while your brain blood flow is measured.

Blood test

You will be asked to have a blood sample collected at a QML Pathology center. This sample will be used to measure the effect of the program on important biomarkers of healthy ageing. It will require you to fast for 8-10hrs prior to having your blood taken.

Activity monitoring

We’ll ask you to wear a wrist activity monitor (like a regular wristwatch) and fill out a sleep diary for seven days to collect information about your daytime activity levels, sleep and wake times, sleep duration and sleep quality.

The lifestyle program

After the baseline assessments, you will be randomly assigned to either a lifestyle intervention program or a dementia risk information group.

The lifestyle intervention group participate in a 12-week program in which they are guided by an expert multi-disciplinary team to adopt realistic healthy lifestyle changes.

The dementia risk information group receive a comprehensive report detailing their individual dementia risk profile together with lifestyle factors to work on to reduce their risk. At the end of the 12-week information period, participants will also receive access to the lifestyle intervention program content material to try.

Both groups focus on healthy lifestyle changes covering four key areas:

  • Physical activity
  • Modified Mediterranean diet
  • Sleep quality
  • Mindfulness
Older man giving a high five in the gym

How to take part

We're a caring, expert team at USC’s Thompson Institute, a world-class hub for mental health and neuroscience research, education and clinical services.

The Thompson Institute exists to conduct research that can be rapidly translated into treatments and diagnostic methods that work.

In the case of dementia, it is our mission to support our community to reduce their dementia risk using interventions that are evidence-based.

If you have questions about the Healthy Brain Ageing Clinic please email us or phone us on 07 5430 1133.

Dementia is one of the biggest health challenges facing Australia. Almost 1 in 10 people over 65 has dementia.

The number of Australians living with dementia is fast approaching 400,000 – and in the next 30 years that number will triple.

But it’s not just those living with dementia who are affected. It’s estimated that more than 1.2 million people in Australia are involved in the care of a person with dementia.

The estimated cost of dementia to our health and aged care system is about $5 billion a year.

While that figure is staggering, the cost of the strain dementia has on people living with the condition, their families and friends is immeasurable.

The Thompson Institute exists to conduct research that can be rapidly translated into treatments and diagnostic methods that work. In the case of dementia, it is our mission to support our community to reduce their dementia risk using interventions that are evidence-based.