Contact: James Vickers
The Island Study Linking Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disease (ISLAND)
Quality research evidence shows there are lifestyle and behavioural factors that contribute to dementia risk. In the absence of a cure or medical treatment that can slow the progression of dementia, now is the time to advance prevention research.
Up to 40% of age-related dementia may be preventable by making changes to health-related behaviours. For example, making sure hearing loss, high blood pressure and diabetes are well managed, engaging in social and educational activities, adhering to physical activity recommendations, a Mediterranean style diet and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption are all ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
This hopeful message has emerged from global, experimental research and from epidemiological modelling in large data sets. But before dementia risk reduction programs can be endorsed as beneficial public health initiatives, we need to know if the evidence for dementia risk reduction stands up when the programs are delivered in uncontrolled, real-world settings. The ISLAND Project is filling this important gap in the dementia prevention evidence base.
Tasmania is Australia’s island state. Its population of 0.5 million is 5 years older, has lower educational attainment and higher rates of smoking, hypertension, diabetes, depression and obesity than national averages. This relatively stable, connected population is ideal for evaluating public health interventions targeting dementia risk reduction.
Members of the ISLAND research cohort commit to doing some online surveys each year for 10 years, as well as some cognitive tests and to donate a blood sample every second year. Our research participants are then invited to join a range of educational and community-based activities that have some evidence for their role in dementia risk reduction. Over time, ISLAND researchers will identify patterns associated with personal background and histories, intervention engagement and changes in dementia risk.
The ISLAND has been established to:
- Recruit a research cohort of 10,000 (or 5%) Tasmanian residents aged 50+, and characterize their dementia risk knowledge, behaviours, current and historical health status, cognition and dementia-related biomarkers;
- Deliver educational, health-related and community-based dementia risk reduction interventions and measure patterns of change in behavioural, cognitive and biological dementia risk indicators; and
- Understand the conditions in which dementia risk reduction interventions, delivered in a real-world context, yield the greatest benefit, and inform future dementia prevention research, policy and practice.
- Prof James Vickers (Project Leader and Chief Investigator)
- Dr Larissa Bartlett (ISLAND Research Fellow and Project Coordinator)
- A/Prof Jane Alty (TasTest development, cognitive neuroscience)
- Dr Kathleen Doherty
- Dr Claire Eccleston
- Dr Maree Farrow
- Dr Sarang Kim
- Prof Anna King
- Dr Edward Hill
- Aidan Bindoff (Statistician and PhD Candidate)]
- Helen Douglas (ISLAND Project Manager)
- Dr Adam Kane (ISLAND Project Officer, Southern Tasmania)
- Justine Keay (ISLAND Project Officer, Northern Tasmania)
- Kerri Magnussen (PhD Candidate, late-life education)
- Dr Duncan Sinclair (Resilience, stress and dementia)
ISLAND is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Futures Fund – Keeping Tasmanians out of Hospital, the University of Tasmania, St Lukes Health and the Masonic Centenary Medical Research Foundation. The ISLAND Campus study is also supported by the University of Tasmania, through its generous waiver of student fees for research participants.
Bartlett L, Doherty K, Farrow M, Bindoff A, Kim S, Eccleston C, et al. The Island Study Linking Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disease (ISLAND): A longitudinal public health research program targeting dementia risk reduction. Alzheimer's & Dementia. 2020;16: 10.1002/alz.045539.
Bartlett L, Brady JR, Farrow M, Kim S, Bindoff A, Fair H, et al. Change in modifiable dementia risk factors during COVID-19 lockdown: the experience of over 50s in Tasmania, Australia. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions. In Press.
Bartlett L, Doherty K, Farrow M, Bindoff A, Kim, S, Eccleston, C, Vickers JC. Dementia risk reduction knowledge and behaviours in Tasmanians 50 and older: The ISLAND Project. Poster#157. Australia Dementia Forum 2021.