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NICOLA 65+ Memory and Thinking Research Study

The number of people worldwide living with dementia and cognitive impairment is increasing, mainly due to people living longer. It is therefore important for researchers to gather much needed data to try and understand who is more likely to develop cognitive ill-health, such as dementia, and what may have caused them to develop it.

  • What is the NICOLA 65+ Memory and Thinking Research Study

    The NICOLA 65+ MEMORY AND THINKING STUDY aims to measure and investigate dementia risk using a range of cognitive and neuropsychological assessments. The study is part of an international research collaboration funded by the National Institute on Aging in the United States of America. It aims to produce comparable data on cognition, mild cognitive impairment and dementia and will help us better understand healthy cognitive ageing and identify risk factors and prevention strategies for cognitive decline.

    The study has already been conducted in the UK, US, Mexico, India, China, and South Africa. The research is being conducted in NICOLA in partnership with Trinity College Dublin and the University of Michigan in the United States.

    Prof Bernadette McGuinness, Consultant Geriatrician and Senior Lecturer from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, who is lead investigator on this cognitive research study, said: “This cross-national research project combining data from Northern Ireland and Ireland will lead to a better understanding of the differences in dementia prevalence and trends and will provide valuable information for population based research into population risk factors for dementia.”

    NICOLA has recently received ethical approval for the research, so we plan to roll it out within NICOLA in the summer of 2021 and look forward to inviting NICOLA participants to be part of this exciting research. Keep an eye out for an invitation in the post asking you to join this important area of NICOLA research.

  • How will we collect information ?

    The study will look at in-depth cognitive assessments of 1000 participants aged over 65 years. By collecting this data, our researchers will produce population prevalence rates of mild cognitive impairment and dementia. It will also enable us to examine the association of dementia with neuro-cardiovascular function and sensory impairment for example eye health and hearing.

    The study will involve a research nurse visiting NICOLA participants in their home or place of residence, where they will carry out a range of cognitive tests to assess memory.

    The study has been designed to add power to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) international network of studies to support joint population analysis of the underlying causes and impact of cognitive decline and to make comparable national estimates of dementia prevalence around the world.

    For more information on this worldwide cognitive research study visit:

  • Research Study Team

    The Principal Investigator of the NICOLA 65+ Memory and Thinking Project and the NIA (National Institute on Ageing) grant is Prof Bernadette McGuinness, Consultant Geriatrician in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Professor in Queen’s University Belfast, and Clinical Lead of NICOLA. 

    The NIA grant has been awarded however to a collaborative team also including:

    • Professor Frank Kee, PhD, Co-Investigator (Queen’s University Belfast)
    • Professor Peter Passmore, MD, Co-Investigator (Queen’s University Belfast)
    • Professor Amy-Jayne McKnight, PhD, Co-Investigator (Queen’s University Belfast)

    Frank is a professor in epidemiology at Queen’s University Belfast and is also the NICOLA PI. His expertise is in epidemiology and public health, in particular, cognition and cross-cohort comparisons.

    Peter is a professor of Geriatric Medicine and a Consultant Geriatrician at Queen’s University Belfast and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. He is a leading expert on dementia both clinically and academically.

    Amy-Jayne is a professor in genetics at Queen’s University Belfast. She has worked extensively on the genetic and epigenetic data in NICOLA and has also been involved in cross-national studies. 

    A parallel study will be carried out in TILDA at the same time. TILDA is the Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing based in Dublin. The research team there includes:

    • Professor Rose Anne Kenny Consultant Geriatrician and Principal Investigator of TILDA
    • Professor Brian Lawlor Dementia expert and Deputy Director of the Global Brain Health Institute Trinity College Dublin
    • Ms Ann Monaghan HCAP-TILDA Project Manager
    • Dr Christine McGarrigle Research Fellow TILDA

    Two leaders of the Health and Retirement Study also act as co-investigators on this project: David Weir who is the director of the Health and Retirement Study has particular interests in health-related quality of life and economic aspects of health, while Kenneth Langa, a professor in the Division of General Medicine at the University of Michigan, the associate director of the Health and Retirement Study is a leading researcher on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Dr Lindsay Ryan will lead on the cognitive assessments.