September 2012

Consortium of Universities Awarded EU Funding to Increase Usage of Neuroimaging

Fri, 21 September 12 09:00

Jonathan McNultyThe ‘NeuroSKILL programme’, led by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with University College Dublin and Bangor University will provide certified training in neuroimaging to health care professionals and researchers in the North East of Ireland and in North Wales. Neuroimaging, a relatively new discipline within medicine, is recognised as having a vital and potentially transformative role in our understanding and treatment of dementia, through earlier diagnosis for patients and more targeted therapy.

Currently, more than 41,700 people in Ireland are living with dementia. In the absence of a medical breakthrough, that number is expected to increase to more than 120,000 by 2041, as a result of increased life expectancy.

Dementia is used to describe a group of symptoms, as opposed to a single disease. Many diseases can produce the symptoms of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for more than 50% of all cases. There is no definitive clinical test for Alzheimer’s disease and treatment focuses on the management and alleviation of symptoms.

“The increase in the older population in Ireland will in turn cause an increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and dementia,” explains SFI lecturer in Neuroimaging at TCD, Dr Arun Bokde. “Neuroimaging is a technology that allows measurement of brain changes related to disease. The NeuroSKILL programme will develop new technology to allow clinicians to better access the information contained in neuroimaging. The technology will be accompanied with the development of training courses, to facilitate its use by clinicians and allied health professionals. In addition, online resources using neuroimaging will be developed for patients and their carers to increase understanding of the disease.”

Dr. Jonathan McNulty, Fellow in Teaching and Academic Development at University College Dublin described the integration of neuroimaging techniques into the “clinical toolkit” in Ireland as absolutely essential.

“Dementia presents us with a monumental public health challenge in Ireland. At current rates, the number of people living with dementia in Ireland will triple over the next 30 years. Neuroimaging uses various techniques to look at different parts of the brain. It can help with providing the crucial early diagnosis, which is critical to the correct management of dementia. Similarly, neuroimaging provides the information required to distinguish between different kinds of dementia, which in turn leads to better and more targeted therapy”, said Dr. McNulty.

The NeuroSKILL programme will capitalise on the three universities’ complementary expertise in neuroimaging and will substantially increase knowledge and application of imaging techniques in the diagnosis of dementia.

In addition to training and research, the consortium will develop a range of web and multimedia tools, targeted towards GPs, hospital-based clinicians, radiographers and other health professionals, to build awareness and expertise on how neuroimaging can benefit patients that present with symptoms of dementia.