How does your memory affect your driving?

Published by  Communications

On 3rd Feb 2021

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have launched a new study to investigate how everyday car driving changes in people over 65.

They hope to establish whether and how thinking and spatial navigation changes impact everyday driving.

And they are looking for volunteers who currently drive to take part in the study.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia, a condition that will affect 135 million people worldwide by 2050.

While memory loss is a symptom of the disease, the UEA team has previously shown that changes in spatial navigation are an early indicator of Alzheimer’s.

Now, the Driver Effect of Cognitive Impairment and Spatial Orientation and Navigation (DECISION) study will investigate how everyday car driving can change in those over 65.

Lead researcher Prof  Michael Hornberger, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Driving is such an essential part of our lives, not only when we work but also in retirement when many people are dependent on the car to get around, especially if they live in more rural areas.

“However, surprisingly little is known on how the cognitive changes during ageing impact our driving. This becomes particularly relevant when older people develop the first symptoms of dementia, which might impact their driving behaviour.

“Few people know that a common symptom in Alzheimer’s disease is spatial disorientation. Spatial disorientation in Alzheimer’s disease can have serious consequences, leading to people potentially becoming lost, which in turn can impact driving behaviour.

“This study will help inform future policies on how to assess driving changes in older people and those with earliest cognitive changes, such as in dementia.”

Tim Parry, Director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in the UK are making in-person opportunities to get involved in research challenging, but there are still opportunities, with many research studies, like this one, available online.

“Without volunteers, we will not be able to make the progress in research that people with dementia and their loved ones deserve. Alzheimer’s Research UK is a founding partner in the national service Join Dementia Research, which matches volunteers to research studies they are eligible to take part in.

“Volunteering for dementia research can be extremely rewarding and is vital for helping get important studies off the ground.

The UK Department for Transport are funding the research, which consists of an online study and an in-person study. For the online study, people over the age of 65 who actively drive can take part and are asked to complete online questionnaires and memory and thinking tests, related to their driving history.

The study is on Join Dementia Research, a national platform that allows people to register their interest in taking part in vital dementia research studies across the UK. To participate in the study, you need to be aged, at least 65 years old, have a valid driving license and currently driving.

You can sign up to and register your interest in taking part in the study by calling Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Dementia Research Infoline on 0300 111 5111 or by visiting the Join Dementia Research website at https://www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk/

The University is grateful to our generous supporter community who made this study possible. If you would like to get involved and make a donation towards Prof Hornberger’s research, please contact giving@uea.ac.uk

Research at UEA

Study at UEA

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