PROTECT is an extraordinary long-term project that is supplying dementia researchers with vital information through a series of online assessments and games. Participants are invited to take part in a range of studies, some of which involve the completion of a short series of brain training games, taking no longer than 15 minutes. Contributors have their short and long-term performance monitored by researchers in order to help understand how our brains change over time.

The PROTECT project is looking for people across the country that don’t have a dementia diagnosis to sign up and take part. Researchers are hoping it will improve our understanding of what happens as the brain ages and how we can reduce the risk of developing dementia.

We spoke to Liz and Dorothy, two participants who have taken part in PROTECT, to ask about their experiences and to see what benefits they found from taking part.

 

Liz Clapham, an ex-teacher from Edinburgh, was first drawn to dementia research after her mother lived with Alzheimer’s disease for a number of years. She explains that this experience helped her realise how difficult it can be for people living with dementia, as well as for their families. Liz said, “care for people with dementia is a lot better now but there still needs to be an understanding of the causes of the disease”.

Dorothy Moulding is retired and lives in Oxfordshire. She first found out about PROTECT through a letter from her GP and was similarly eager to take part. She said “I first got interested after a neighbour of mine was living with dementia but also, why would you not want to help? If a research project is looking for help and you’re eligible and you’ve got time on your hands, then it just seems wrong not to”.

Dr Anne Corbett, Lead investigator for the PROTECT project

Dr Anne Corbett, Lead investigator for the PROTECT project

PROTECT is still actively looking for people to take part and has an overall target of 50,000 participants across the UK. Dr Anne Corbett, Senior Lecturer in Dementia Research at the University of Exeter and Lead Investigator on the PROTECT project, is urging anyone without a diagnosis of dementia to sign up and take part. She said “the great thing about PROTECT is that you can do it from home and shape it around your individual lifestyle”.

She added “The tests do not take up a lot of time but the data we are collecting over time will be invaluable to researchers.”

One of the benefits that this study has for participants is that they can choose to structure their schedule however they like. “Taking part never seems like a burden” said Liz, “I’ve fitted it into my routine and my life anyway so it never seems like a lot of work”.

Dorothy also completes the tests from her own home. She added “for me, there’s not too much of a commitment. I do it with my cup of coffee in the morning!”

Aside from the online assessments and brain testing games, participants are also asked to perform a simple saliva DNA test but even this is completed from home, with the study team sending the kit out to their home and the participant simply putting it back in the post free of charge.

The PROTECT project also seems to have had a positive impact on the lives of participants with Liz saying “I’m not really a games sort of person but it’s important to know that I’m making a difference. And the other side of it is that if it is good for me, and if it keeps my brain going a bit longer, then so much the better!”

Both Liz and Dorothy would wholeheartedly recommend getting involved with PROTECT, and in dementia research generally. Liz said “Dementia affects everyone differently and it can be very individual. It is so important to identify the disease as early as possible.”

She continued “Dementia research is lagging behind other diseases. But I think it is starting to come around because there is a growing awareness now. It’s more out there than it used to be and it’s just about carrying on raising the awareness.’

Dorothy echoed this sentiment, “More people than ever are developing dementia as they live longer but people can see the good work that is coming from research into other diseases and the treatments that are coming out of that, and I think it is now time for all of us to be putting more effort into dementia research”.


To see if you are eligible to take part in PROTECT, or any other study, you can register or log in with Join Dementia Research and see if you have matched.

To find out more about PROTECT, as well as other similar projects, visit the PROTECT website.