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Modifiable risk factors for dementia include those factors that can be altered or changed in some way (modified), usually for the better. The Lancet 2020 commission (Livingston et al., 2020) advocated that there are 12 risk factors which can be potentially modified to prevent or slow the progression of dementia. These are less education, hypertension, obesity, alcohol, traumatic brain injury (TBI), hearing loss, smoking, depression, physical inactivity, social isolation, diabetes and air pollution.

Modify: To change something slightly - especially in order to improve it

modify background

The aim of Modify is to investigate the impact of the 12 risk factors on later life dementia and cognitive decline using largescale longitudinal population data resources. By exploring retrospective self-report data across the risk factors, we are able to assess the importance and significance of long term risk factors on later life cognition. Our work also explores additional risk factors which are not yet recognised. By highlighting the importance of these and other risk factors on long term development of cognitive decline and dementia, intervention programmes can be more targeted to individual risk. 

Our group works with global multi-modal data sources including questionnaire, genetic and imaging data to further the understanding of the mechanistic pathways between risk factors and cognition/dementia outcomes. We also work on investigating ways to increase public understanding of how to reduce risk more easily. For example, our hearing loss and hearing aid work shows that wearing hearing aids for hearing loss reduces the risk of progression to mild cognitive impairment, but also reduces the risk of dementia (Bucholc et al., 2020, 2022). Our work has been highly publicised by national newspapers and television because it is a relatively easy risk factor to comply with. However, for people with MCI and dementia, fitting and using hearing aids is not necessarily easy. Our continued work investigates difficulties. 

Poor diet is associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes, two further risk factors. However, the information to the general public is often confusing and judgmental. This is turn, dissuades people from adhering to a 'healthy diet'. The focus of our work is on investigating a 'brain health' diet, focusing on cognitive and dementia outcomes. Understanding why certain people age successfully until 85+ years with no sign of dementia is an important area of focus. By studying 'Superagers', we are hoping to understand the lifestyle factors that contributed to later life 'healthy cognition'. 

The Modify programme is lead by Dr Sarah Bauermeister and researchers are affiliated to the Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Oxford and global institutions. Global datasets are accessed through the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) Data Portal and through other independent data sources. 

Other Team Members

Dr Magda Bucholc — Ulster University

Dr Dipanwita Ghanti University of Oxford

Meggie Smith University of Oxford 

Millie Morgan University of Oxford


John Gallacher — Department of Psychiatry (  - Mentorship 

Juliet Kirsten - Blossom logo

Joshua Bauermeister - Data management

Our team

Selected publications

Related research themes