About the Study

What is the PROTECT study?

The study is open to volunteers aged 50 and over. It will last at least ten years.

The PROTECT Study will gather data and support innovative research to improve our understanding of the ageing brain and why people develop dementia.

We know that certain factors such as exercise, smoking and blood pressure affect our risk of dementia, and there is increasing evidence that our genes also play a role.

Participants in PROTECT will provide information about themselves and complete online assessments to measure their abilities such as memory and reasoning. By repeating these assessments each year we will monitor how they change over the study. Participants will also provide a sample of their DNA through a simple at-home kit. PROTECT participants will also have the opportunity to take part in innovative studies to answer crucial questions such as:

  • How do key measures, such as memory, language and reasoning change over time as we age?
  • How do our lifestyle choices, including our exercise habits and diet affect our risk of dementia?
  • What role do genetics play in the ageing brain? How do they affect how our brain functions and what is their influence on development of dementia?
  • What are the early signs of dementia and how can they be distinguished from normal ageing?
  • What approaches can be delivered online to influence the ageing process and the development of dementia?

What will the study achieve?

The study will provide valuable information about how the brain changes with age. It will also investigate which factors in mid-life affect our risk of dementia, such as exercise and diet. This knowledge will help develop better approaches to prevent and treat dementia in the future.

Additional sub-studies within the main study will provide further specific information, for example:

  • A better understanding of what role our genes play in how our brains age and how dementia develops will help to detect dementia earlier or even prevent it in the first place
  • How signals in our blood and spinal fluid might indicate the early stages of dementia and form the basis of a simple diagnostic test
Prof Dag Aarsland, Chair of Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London and a Lead Investigator for the PROTECT study, says “The great thing about online projects is that you are breaking the geographical boundaries between eager participants and research departments. PROTECT is something you can simply do from home and shape around your own lifestyle. Although the tests are not demanding in nature, their future value to researchers will be indescribable.”

How does the study work?

We are aiming to recruit at least 50000 people who are over 50 and do not have dementia or any other neurodegenerative condition. These people will complete a series of assessments online which will be repeated annually over the next ten years.

We may approach certain people to take part in further studies. This may involve providing samples of DNA (by doing a painless cheek swab) or blood. It may also involve taking part in treatment or prevention studies.

This study, and all associated studies will require participants to fully understand the research and to provide their consent to take part.

Data Collection

This study will collect the following data from each participant online:
  • Agreement that you have read and understood the information about the study
  • Your consent to take part
  • Basic information about you in a questionnaire format e.g. demographic characteristics, education, lifestyle (including exercise habits), medical history.
  • Cognition function – this is collected by online tests that measure how your brain is functioning. Please see What is Cognitive Testing? for more information on cognitive function and how it can be measured.

Dementia Facts

  • Dementia is an umbrella term. It describes a wide set of symptoms including memory loss, mood changes, and problems with communication. These conditions are all usually progressive and eventually severe.
  • There are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK.
  • There will be over a million people by 2025 and over 2 million by 2051.
  • 225,000 will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes.
  • Dementia currently costs the UK over £26 billion each year.
  • One in three people over 65 will die with dementia.
  • More than 25,000 people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the UK are affected.