Impact

Age UK uses knowledge gained from The Disconnected Mind to enhance its Information and Advice materials.

In 2012, Age UK published the first book in its 'Improving Later Life' series. Intended for public audiences as a toolkit for healthy ageing, the book brought together 20 leading experts in ageing research to create an authoritative guide to ageing well. The authors each contributed a chapter on an aspect of ageing giving their advice based on latest research evidence, together with a summary of the evidence on which the advice was based. Professor Ian Deary contributed a chapter titled, "Thinking ahead", based on evidence from The Disconnected Mind research, and his research with the older Lothian Birth Cohort 1921. We have since produced an abbreviated version, including Professor Deary's chapter, and are currently making it available free of charge on a pilot basis through advertisements in selected national newspapers and magazines.

 

Age UK and the University of Edinburgh asked to present The Disconnected Mind directly to parliament

Age UK is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), which holds occasional themed summer receptions for members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research (APPG) and other MPs and Parliamentarians with interests in medical research. The reception enables discussion on topical issues in medical research and raises awareness of these matters across Parliament. The theme for the 2012 event was how and why data collected from people is used in medical research. Age UK, in collaboration with The Disconnected Mind team, was selected by an expert AMRC panel from among hundreds of charities to present a poster for a project that showcases outstanding research in this theme. Our poster received considerable attention at the reception on 11th July 2012. It was visited by, among others, Chris Ruane MP (Vale of Clwyd), who afterwards tabled a Parliamentary Question asking the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been made of the effect of expanding access to anonymised medical data on UK medical research and the economy.

 

Age UK recognised by the Foundation for Science and Technology for its expertise in knowledge transfer

This Foundation provides a neutral platform for debate of policy issues that have a science, engineering or technology element. On 3rd October 2012, the Foundation held an evening seminar on "An ageing population: meeting the challenge of caring for the rising number of dementia patients". Age UK's Head of Research, Professor James Goodwin, gave a talk on taking research through to practice by effective knowledge transfer. 

 

Age UK invited to comment on issues of healthy mental ageing and other ageing issues as a result of its involvement with The Disconnected Mind

As a result of press releases from the University of Edinburgh on major findings from the Disconnected Mind, James Goodwin of Age UK has been quoted in the national media. 

 

NHS Health Scotland and Scottish Government policy makers ask to hear about The Disconnected Mind

Professor Deary and his team had the opportunity of a half-day's seminar where the findings from Disconnected Mind were relayed to NHS Scotland, Scotland's health education body. Professor Deary has presented findings from the Disconnected Mind at the Scottish Government's Cross-Party Group on Older People and Ageing, and his team members and he have a permanent place on that group. The UK Government's Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills—David Willetts—came to Edinburgh and spent an hour one-to-one with Professor Deary discussing Disconnected Mind results.

 

Growing Science Impact

The Disconnected Mind was the keystone project that led to Professor Deary's success in obtaining a UK Research Councils'-funded Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh (CCACE). CCACE provides core staff and skilled researchers, some of whom work closely with theDisconnected Mind data. It also has a dedicated Knowledge Exchange Officer who ensures the dissemination and impact of the research knowledge is maximised. Subsequently, Professor Starr successfully established the Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Dementia Research. These Centres are located in the same building as the Disconnected Mind and have strong collaborative links.

 Another positive impact has been the uptake, by other scientists, of methods developed by the Disconnected Mind team. Professor Deary led a publication of a full account of the methods used in the recruitment and testing of the LBC1936, and Professor Wardlaw and Dr Mark Bastin led the publication of the methods that were developed by the Team for brain imaging (image acquisition and analysis). Professor Wardlaw now leads the European Workshops on 'Standards for Determining the Vascular Contribution to Neurodegeneration'. In the genetics of cognitive ageing, Professor Deary now leads the world's top cognitive genetic consortium—CHARGE—in looking at the genetic contributions to cognitive ageing in many cohorts from around the world.

 

Public Engagement

With regard to direct impact on older people, Professor Deary alone has given over 40 talks to lay groups, on the Disconnected Mind project. Typically this has been to groups of older people. These audiences range in number from dozens to several hundreds. They include retired groups the University of the Third Age, and science festivals (e.g., Edinburgh and Cheltenham).

Another useful and different set of impacts is that of the Disconnected Mind's collaboration with artists and writers. The study has been the subject of a successful play at the Edinburgh Festival fringe ('Still Life Dreaming'), an art exhibition (www.ccace.ed.ac.uk/transformations), a book which has been written on the lives of the LBC study participants and scientists (www.lbclifetimes.org), and it now has a renowned portrait artist in residence painting and drawing portraits of the participants and scientists. The LBC1936 also features in an exhibit at the Science Museum in London.

Speaking about the play 'Still Life Dreaming' (about the LBC1936), the BBC Arts correspondent Will Gompertz said "The play reveals some of the results and explores the subject of cognitive aging. Which is interesting. But the human stories are better. The tales... from the individuals who had taken the test back in 1947 are now re-told" http://bbc.in/r17M3f. The play was also reported in the BBC Review Show (19 Aug 2011) and was a story in The Times (20 Aug 2011) which said of the results from the LBC1936, "those with better thinking skills tended to have better lung power, better muscle power, and a faster walking speed.".

 

Media Interest

The science and the story of the Lothian Birth Cohorts regularly make the national and international press.

For example, the Disconnected Mind has produced two high impact publications on the genetics of intelligence in ageing. These papers showed a genetic contribution to the inheritance of intelligence and changes in thinking ability with age and the first paper was featured in over 300 articles worldwide. This resulted in articles/blog comments online, comments on Twitter and in the international press, and over 1,800 views of videos about the research posted on YouTube (see, for example, http://youtu.be/Y2ZXccfgWXk).

 As a result of the second paper on the genetic contribution to stability and change in intelligence across the lifespan (Deary et al. 2012) the Rt Hon. David Willetts MP—the UK Minister for Universities and Science—asked for a meeting with Professor Ian Deary. Mr Willetts said of the paper, "This is an illuminating study; ingenious in the way it drew on the database; and fascinating in showing that a quarter of the change in intelligence across the lifespan is explained by genetic factors."

 The Actor Simon Callow has commented directly on the project in an article in the Times (15 Feb 2010); "I was able to spend a day with Deary and his team of exceptional scientists. The enthusiasm was palpable... I can think of no more urgent and important project for every one of us."