Dr Andrew McKinnon: Race Against Dementia/Dementia Australia Research Foundation Fellow, The University of Sydney

I am excited to join the Race Against Dementia team, and am very grateful for this opportunity. Sir Jackie’s vision to apply high-performance elements from F1 to dementia research is a unique and potentially very effective approach to streamlining dementia research and allowing breakthroughs to be made at a more rapid pace. This prestigious fellowship will be an invaluable opportunity to develop my career and allow me to collect evidence that sleep disturbances such as the hypoxemia seen in obstructive sleep apnea are a crucial modifiable risk factor for dementia. Furthermore, I will use these findings to develop tools that can be routinely implemented in clinics to allow for early intervention and management of the cognitive decline that predisposes individuals to the onset of dementia. This fellowship is also about so much more than pure research. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to engage with the best minds across academia, industry and beyond. In doing so, learning from and engaging in global collaborations with industry leaders and other crucial external stakeholders will facilitate more rapid advances in dementia research through assimilating expert knowledge across diverse fields.

Dr Andrew McKinnon

Delineating relationships between sleep-wake disturbances, brain changes, dementia risk factors and the accumulation of dementia pathology

Dementia is the leading cause of disability in persons over the age of 65 in Australia, with Alzheimer’s disease alone accounting for more than 40% of all dementia cases. By addressing risk factors for developing dementia including hypertension, depression, and physical inactivity, one-third of Alzheimer’s disease cases and up to 40% of all dementia cases may be preventable. Sleep disturbances including poor sleep quality, and shorter sleep duration, as well as sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea are present in up to 60% of older adults over the age of 60, and in up to 70% of those with dementia. These types of sleep problems are emerging as another significant yet modifiable (for example, through treatment with melatonin or CPAP devices) risk factor for dementia. However, to date, how these sleep problems relate over time to brain and cognition changes, underlying dementia processes, and other risk factors has not been thoroughly investigated. We will address this gap through comprehensively characterising sleep problems in older adults with early dementia or at risk for dementia. Furthermore, we will develop tools that will provide personalised risk profile reports that can be implemented by clinicians to guide strategies for dementia management and prevention for individual patients.