Drivers with dementia wanted for ground-breaking new study

Published by  Communications

On 11th Aug 2023

An older man driving.
Getty images.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia are looking for car drivers with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or early dementia to take part in a ground-breaking new study. 

They want to find out how healthy aging and neurodegenerative diseases can influence driving behaviour. 

And they are looking for 50 people from the East of England who are over 65 – and have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, vascular cognitive impairment, or any form of clinical dementia – to take part. 

As well as investigating the impact of these conditions on driving, they will also study other factors that may have an effect, such as the local environment and navigation.

Dementia expert Prof Michael Hornberger, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We know that when people have dementia or mild cognitive impairment, mental changes such as spatial disorientation can occur – and this can affect driving ability.

“But there is currently a lack of knowledge about these changes. 

“We want to investigate the changes that take place in thinking as we age, and better understand how these changes affect driving performance.

"Understanding the effects of neurodegenerative diseases on real-world driving is crucial for developing better strategies to ensure road safety for older people," he added. 

People taking part will be asked to complete a short memory and thinking test, and if selected, an MRI will be taken of their brain, along with measurements of height, weight and blood pressure. 

Participants will also be asked to take part in a range of virtual reality navigation tasks on a computer. 

They will also have a GPS monitor fitted to their car to record location data that will help the team study driving behaviour such as harsh braking and steering. 

Participants must be over 65, hold a valid UK driving licence and currently drive at least once a week. People located outside the region can also contact the team to discuss potential participation. 

Prof Hornberger said: “The measurements that we are carrying out are for research purposes only and so we can’t determine whether someone is fit to drive. 

“However, if we are concerned about someone’s physical or mental wellbeing we would contact their GP. 

“Anyone who is worried about their fitness to drive should discuss this with their GP directly,” he added. 

For more information about taking part contact  

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