This year the Department of Health Sciences welcomes the first four Atlantic Fellows from the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) who represent “the first of an international network of ‘change agents’ in the global fight against dementia”.
GBHI is a partnership programme between Trinity College and the University of California, San Fransisco aimed at fostering pioneering research in a diverse range of disciplines to combat the worldwide problem of ageing population – and its biggest health implication, cognitive impairment. The programme’s funding represents the largest philanthropic donation in the history of the Irish state at €138.4 million, given to the programme by Atlantic Philanthropies last November.
The four trainees from Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands are representative of the programme’s focus on a multidisciplinary approach and their respective work focuses on brain health and age-related health treatments that cover all stages of treatment: the prevention, diagnosis, assessment and management of age-related health issues.
These trainees, or ‘Atlantic Fellows’, will receive training in communications, health economics, brain protection, dementia prevention, and public policy alongside working to further their particular area of interest.
Dominic Campbell is the co-founder of Creative Aging International (CAI), an Irish company working on the global stage with artists and scientists alike to encourage creativity as an element of care for the ageing population. Their focus is on incorporating the roles of art and science in reducing the stigma attached to ageing; the fear of ageing itself and the worry surrounding its related illnesses. CAI achieves this by developing projects that help build positive and engaging methods of adapting to the ageing process, encouraging people to “fall in love with their older selves”.
Cognitive neurologist Mircea Balasa’s work deals with the delays in diagnosis of dementia that continue to persist despite available resources. Having worked at the Alzheimer’s Unit at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, Balasa will continue to build on his research in order to develop better approaches to achieve earlier detection of the disease and provide more precise diagnoses to those living with cognitive impairment.
Mobility issues and the risks associated with falling are “a highly prevalent problem” for the elderly. The prevention of these risks is what Geeske Peeters of Monash University, Australia, centres her work around. By reducing these risk factors, Peeters believes the benefits can be widespread: from maintaining cognitive function, allowing older patients more independence and fostering the wellbeing in older adults. This will be achieved by creating an interdisciplinary network that will provide expertise in the areas of public health campaigning, health behaviour, communications, policy making, and industry. The outcome of their work hopes to provide preventative strategies that have proven to be effective across all of these disciplines.
Adrià Rofes, Spain is an esteemed cognitive neuroscientist praised for his creativity and research successes. Having studied and trained in more than five countries, Rofes hopes to develop international collaborations to combat the problem of dementia and other age-related cognitive health issues. Rofes states that “through understanding brain-behaviour relations, we can improve clinical assessment and outcome protocols for brain conditions.” He aims to utilise this improved understanding and research to influence better health and government policies.
GBHI will be located in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and led by Professor of Psychology, Ian Robertson, and Connolly Norman Professor of Old Age Psychiatry, Brian Lawlor. Following these initial four Altantic Fellows, the programme hopes to expand its scope by selecting eight more Fellows each year. Those selected will be working in a broad range of fields, including medicine and public policy, social science, journalism, law, business and the arts. These will be divided between Trinity and the University of California.
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