Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging

Dr. Arlene Astell, Ontario Shores’ Research Chair in Community Management of Dementia, is part of a team looking at the prevention and treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia in long-term care.

Dementia is an overarching term used to describe irreversible cognitive decline that is greater than would be expected for a person’s age and which affects an individual’s ability to maintain their independence. In 2010, there were an estimated 500,000 Canadians with a dementia diagnosis (Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, 2010), a number that is expected to reach 1,125,200 by 2038 due to the high growth rate of Canadians over 65 years of age. This will account for 2.8 percent of Canada’s total population, cost ~$300 billion per year, and place a significant burden on individuals, families, and the health care system as a whole (Puurveen & Drance, 2012; Shaji et al., 2003).

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia accounting for approximately 60-80 percent of all people diagnosed with dementia ( As the condition progresses, individuals with AD and other dementias lose the ability to care for themselves. As a result, most individuals with dementia need complex packages of care that rely on a combination of family and formal services to maintain them in their own homes, or alternatively require placement in Long-Term Care facilities.

Current health policy seeks to have people aging at home for as long as possible yet recognizes the dearth of “adequate community support” to make this happen (Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, 2013). Compared with seniors without dementia, people with a diagnosis have double the risk of being hospitalized, visiting hospital for preventable conditions, and needing alternate levels of care once in hospital (Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, 2013). Moreover, the current lack of supports for people living with dementia has a negative impact on caregivers, leading to stress, depression and their own health problems (Schulz & Matire, 2004).
Given the prevalence and consequence of dementia, we were excited to hear the recent announcement from the Minister of Health, Honourable Rona Ambrose, regarding the creation of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA). The CCNA is a “collaborative research program focused on tackling the challenge of dementia and other neurodegenerative illnesses.” The CCNA received $31.5 million of funding over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and public and private donors (e.g., the Alzheimer Society of Canada and Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé).

The CCNA, led by Dr. Howard Chertkow (neurologist; Associate Professor, McGill University), assembles 20 teams to conduct research under three themes: (1) primary prevention (i.e., preventing neurodegenerative illnesses such as dementia from occurring); (2) secondary prevention (i.e., delaying the onset of neurodegenerative illnesses such as dementia); and, (3) quality of life (i.e., improving the quality of life for those living with neurodegenerative illnesses and their caregivers). As a research member, Dr. Astell is leading a project on delivering personalized needs-based interventions.

More information on the CCNA can be found at: