Assessing Alzheimer’s disease risk online: What is the relationship between risk factors and objective and subjective memory performance?

Project Researchers Prof. Kaarin J Anstey, A/Prof Kathryn Ellis

Year: July 1, 2016

Partners University of Tasmania

Program Overview:

Previous research has demonstrated that many older people report memory difficulties and concern about developing dementia. Our research program seeks to develop and evaluate practical and accessible dementia risk reduction resources. The Australian National University Alzheimer’s disease risk index (ANU-ADRI) is an online questionnaire designed to assess an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), available at

This dementia risk assessment tool is based on risk and protective factors that have reliable scientific evidence and can be measured by self-report. It was specifically designed for implementation in public health programs aimed at reducing population prevalence of dementia through providing individuals with an assessment of their own risk and targeted risk reduction interventions. While there are well established lifestyle and health factors that influence dementia risk, and declining memory task performance may also predict the development of dementia, it remains unclear how subjective memory complaints relate to objective performance and the risk of dementia due to AD.

The current project will therefore investigate relationships between AD risk as measured by the ANU-ADRI, subjective memory complaints and objective memory task performance. Our long term aim is to determine whether the combination of memory measures and the ANU-ADRI will provide a practical and easily accessible online risk assessment for dementia that can be utilised by consumers, researchers and in clinical practice.

The Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre will run a Preventing Dementia Massive Open Online Course (PD MOOC) in 2016. Participants of the PD MOOC will be invited to participate in this research project. They will be asked to complete the ANUADRI, a memory task sensitive to early changes in AD, a subjective memory questionnaire, and a brief questionnaire asking for their perceptions of the ANU-ADRI and memory task and how they intend to use their results. All measures will be delivered online to maximise accessibility. Following their completion of the study, participants will be referred to information about addressing their risk factors, which is provided within the PD MOOC, and advised to see their doctor if their risk assessment or memory performance raise any concerns. Given our previous experience with an Understanding Dementia MOOC which has attracted over 70,000 participants across four offerings, we expect to recruit an international sample of at least 1000 participants for this project.

From the data collected, we will investigate associations between objective and subjective memory performance, the overall ANU-ADRI risk score, and individual dementia risk factors. This will help determine whether incorporating memory measures in the ANU-ADRI could enhance identification of individual dementia risk and guiding users to appropriate advice and/or interventions. We will use the perceptions questionnaire to measure perceived benefits or harms of the combination of the ANUADRI and memory measures in an online dementia risk assessment tool.

The findings will inform future development of the ANU-ADRI and its implementation in public and clinical health settings. The automated and accessible online format of the ANU-ADRI may make it useful in large-scale screening programs, or to identify individuals at high risk for inclusion in prevention trials. It also enables individuals to learn about and address their risk factors, and can encourage those at high risk to seek clinical evaluation, and reassure those whose measured risk is low and memory performance is normal. The project team will use the tool as an outcome measure in future longitudinal studies assessing the effectiveness of dementia risk reduction education and dementia prevention interventions.

Successful DCRC grant recipient 2016

Other team members:
Dr Shannon Klekociuk, University of Tasmania;
Dr David Ward, University of Tasmania;
Prof James Vickers, University of Tasmania

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