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Investigating gait in dementia research © Newcastle University

The study – globally the most in-depth of its type – will help scientists identify the best early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and track responses to treatments.

Recruitment of volunteers was put on hold in March, but participants are now being welcomed again at testing sites in Oxford and Exeter. Sites based in Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, and at Imperial College London, are due to open soon.

The DFP team has worked to make the testing environments and procedures COVID-safe, introducing measures such as temperature checks, face coverings, PPE where appropriate, and dialogue with participants over NHS guidelines, symptom reporting, and actions to take during site visits.

DFP will create a database of different measures taken from people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These measures include regular brain scans, cognitive and memory tests, scans of magnetic fields generated by the brain, retinal imaging, blood tests, and the use of wearable technology to measure movement, gait and ongoing cognitive abilities. In the future, we will be able to use the data obtained through DFP to understand if early interventions are working.

Dr Vanessa Raymont of the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, who is leading the DFP study for DPUK, said: ‘We’re delighted to be welcoming volunteers again in Oxford and Exeter, and have ensured our testing sites and processes are COVID-secure.

‘The DFP study gives us the opportunity to gather an unprecedented range of information that we will use to help with the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and the development of new drugs. Our volunteers can be safe in the knowledge that by taking part they are contributing to vital research in the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia.’

DFP will recruit 250 participants from across the UK who are over 60 and in good health, but with a family history of dementia. It will be the most comprehensive set of assessments ever completed in this group of people. Data from the study will be made available to researchers via the secure DPUK Data Portal.

Recruitment and testing will take place at various locations around the UK, and researchers are currently seeking participants in the Oxford and Exeter areas.

For more information on the DFP study, including how to take part, visit the study website.