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Mental Health, Dementia and Neurodegeneration

Mental Health, Dementia and Neurodegeneration

Mental health problems affect as many as one in three people at some point in their lives.  Dementia affects 850,000 older people in the UK with this number expected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.  Other neurodegenerative conditions, for example, Parkinson’s disease, are the fastest growing neurological conditions worldwide.  As a result, the combined societal impact of the conditions addressed by this Research Theme is enormous. 

Our goal is to improve the care and outcomes of patients living with these conditions. We want to decrease the burden on individuals, their families and society.

Research impact

Our achievements to date span aspects of diagnosis, disease characterisation, care and treatment. Examples include: 

Leading on the development of the revised international diagnostic criteria for dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) that have been incorporated into DSM-5 and ICD11. Creating international research diagnostic criteria for prodromal dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) with the inclusion of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), delirium-onset, and psychiatric-onset subtypes.

Helping validate and establish functional dopamine transporter imaging as a clinically used diagnostic biomarker in DLB.

We host the national coordinating centre for the Brains for Dementia Research (BDR) Programme that has recruited over 3,200 people. Over 800 have now donated their tissue for dementia research.

We lead large international consortia and national projects in digital healthcare, e.g.wearables. We are validating novel digital methods for use in clinical trials and healthcare in neurodegenerative disease and bipolar disorder. Including establishing the use of mobility, gait, as a biomarker and discriminatory tool in neurodegenerative disease, e.g. predicting falls risk

We are a leading UK centre for clinical trials in patients with difficult to treat mood disorders. We are leading an international consensus on the identification and management of difficult to treat depression

We are developing novel lithium magnetic resonance imaging techniques, 7Li-MRI, to determine the relationship between brain lithium distribution and treatment outcome.

Research culture 

The MHDN supports and promotes equality and diversity, the development of early career researchers and research led teaching. We have a strong emphasis on providing training and excellent opportunities to ECRs, which we define as all of those without Faculty positions irrespective of the time since PhD completion.

We provide mentorship and advice for ECRs within the theme, including for Fellowship applications. Our links with other themes enable advice to be sought from researchers from different but related disciplines, improving collaborative aspects and enhancing project design. 
ECR lead: Daniel Erskine  

Teaching and supervision

We have a number of opportunities for PhD projects and are part of many doctoral training programmes. Professor Thomas led an Alzheimer's Society funded Doctoral Training Centre in Lewy Body Dementia, which funded five students to successfully complete PhDs between 2015 and 2020 and they published over 25 papers in peer reviewed journals. We provide interdisciplinary training across our theme.

Within our theme, we supervise student projects from different subjects and degree stages: 

Our students have the opportunity to be involved in exciting areas of research, learning a variety of lab, clinical and research-based skills. We also offer opportunities for intercalating medical students. We have supported several of our students to present their work at national and international conferences as well as publishing in academic journals.

If you are interested in completing a student research project with us, contact our Educational Lead: Rachael Lawson.  

Get involved in our research

There are always studies and clinical trials that you may be able to participate in. For studies related to mood disorders: depression and bipolar disorder, please visit the Northern Centre for Mood Disorders (NCMD) website. 

To get involved in our dementia studies, register via the national Join Dementia Research website. You will be linked to research studies happening in our region.