An ANU researcher using innovative new methods to tackle dementia symptoms has been awarded a grant by Alzheimer's Australia.
Cognitive ageing researcher Alex Bahar-Fuchs targets people who may be at risk of dementia, but have not yet begun to show symptoms.
He will be using mental puzzles and games to exercise the brain like a gym, in the hope of improving function.
''[We're] using a website that has game-like tasks [and] subjects do this for eight to 12 weeks in the context of this study,'' he said. ''We test them at the beginning and the end of the intervention, as well as three months follow-up period to see whether it has led to any improvement or changes in their thinking abilities.''
Bungendore resident Willy Singleton is no stranger to dementia - his father had it, his great-grandfather had it and his sister has it as well.
He has volunteered to take part in Dr Bahar-Fuchs' study to help dementia research and perhaps stave off his own symptoms. ''Having experienced it very closely within the family I'm aware of how much damage it does to everyone else,'' he said. ''If this is going to happen to me, then the research may benefit from it at this stage. If it doesn't happen to me, I'll consider myself very lucky.''
The project was funded by the Alzheimer's Australia Dementia Research Foundation, which gave out $2.5 million in grants to 29 researchers.
Alzheimer's Australia president Ita Buttrose said more than a million Australians were touched by dementia in some way.
''The grants will allow researchers to start working on some of the biggest challenges in the field of dementia research,'' she said.
Dr Bahar-Fuchs said it was important that more work like his was done, to determine how effective mental exercises were in staving off dementia.
''If I do sudoku every day, I can become a world master of sudoku. But even though sudoku uses a lot of skills, it doesn't mean if there's another test that shows the same skills, you will show improvement on those tests,'' he said.
Mr Singleton said although he was happy he could contribute to Dr Bahar-Fuchs' research, dementia research still needed more money and attention. ''For this particular thing there can never be enough money,'' he said. ''It affects a huge number of people.''