NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University
Research Field: Cognitive Neuroscience
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is characterised by a decline in cognitive abilities, and is a transitional stage between healthy ageing and dementia. It is estimated that up to 35% of Australians aged 70 years and older have MCI, and 80% will go on to develop dementia within six years. Dementia is now the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death in older Australians. Although people with MCI have a significantly increased risk of dementia, it is difficult to determine which individuals are most at risk, and currently, this is usually ascertained from individuals’ symptom profiles using tests of neurocognitive function. However, cognitive test performance does not necessarily have a simple relationship with the extent of neuropathology or the risk of future cognitive decline. Recent evidence suggests that early intervention may improve prognosis for people with MCI by delaying deterioration with prevention-based strategies.
The aim Dr Steiner’s research is to develop urgently needed sensitive and scientifically valid biomarkers to determine which individuals with MCI are most at risk. Her research capitalises on advances in neuroimaging technology and aims to develop an imaging test for MCI, that has the potential to guide changes in policy and clinical practice.