Understanding the causes of dementia: how far have we come?
Summary: Despite decades of research, it is still not clear what causes Alzheimer’s disease. Most research into dementia risk factors is observational and suffers from the pervasive issues of confounding and reverse causation. Survival bias is also problematic when studying very late life diseases and can lead to spuriously protective associations between factors that increase risk of premature mortality (e.g. smoking) and dementia risk. Mendelian randomization has started to shed some light on which risk factors are likely to be causal, and therefore which interventions may reduce dementia burden. It has also provided clues to the ages at which interventions are likely to be successful. Emma will provide an overview of the research into dementia risk factors, discuss where the research is heading, and which interventions look the most promising.
Bio: Dr Emma Anderson is Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Division of Psychiatry, UCL. Emma’s work to-date has focussed on the application of novel causal inference methodology, such as Mendelian randomization, polygenic risk score analysis and offspring instrumental variable analysis, to identify modifiable causal risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Emma’s UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship will extend this work by identifying genetic and environmental determinants of vascular dementia.