Iron and Cognition in Older Adults [ 2003 - 2005 ]

Also known as: Iron and Memory

Research Grant

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Researchers: A/Pr Elizabeth Milward (Principal investigator) ,  Prof Assen Jablensky Prof David Bruce Prof John Olynyk Prof Matthew Knuiman
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Brief description Iron is essential for brain health. Too little iron can cause problems with memory, concentration and attention and can result in below average intellectual performance or even stroke in children. Too much iron can also be harmful. In the iron overload disease haemochromatosis, iron deposition throughout the body can lead to organ damage in the liver and other tissues. Concentrations of iron in the brain can equal those in liver. Yet surprisingly little is known about the effects of iron on the adult human brain. Although the adult brain has traditionally been considered to be protected from the effects of high body iron by the blood-brain barrier, modern techniques show brain iron loading in patients with iron overload disorders or with various brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Several recent studies, including our own, have found associations between mutations in genes important in iron metabolism and brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. As many as 30% of Australians have abnormal iron levels (too high or too low) that are often undiagnosed and untreated. There is growing reason to believe these men and women are more likely to have memory problems as well as being at increased risk of brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. There is an urgent need for a large-scale study of the short-term and long-term effects of iron levels and related genetic factors on brain health and function. Residents of the Western Australian town of Busselton have participated in a set of health surveys since 1966. We have studied the iron status and related genetic factors in over 3,000 Busselton people. We now propose to perform tests of memory, attention, concentration and related brain activities on the older members of this community group. This will allow us to discover the effects of relevant gene factors, and short- and long-term iron status on memory and other brain functions and on Alzheimer's disease and related disorders.

Funding Amount $AUD 473,000.00

Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants

Notes Standard Project Grant

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