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Dr Dawie Wessels (L) and Professor Clive Ballard (R)

Exeter in launch of major US study on brain ageing

The University of Exeter is collaborating with Synexus, the leading global network of dedicated research sites, to launch one of the largest, registry-based research initiatives in the United States to help understand how healthy brains age.

The initial goal of the Synexus HealthyMinds Registry (Synexus HMR) is to register 30,000 adults in the United States age 50 or older without signs of dementia for a five-year study. Participants engage online only, in a study to examine the lifestyle and genetic risk factors impacting cognitive function over time to identify potential methods of prevention and possible treatments.

Synexus is collaborating with Acurian, a leading full-service provider of global patient enrolment and retention solutions, to help enroll study participants. Synexus and Acurian are part of Accelerated Enrolment Solutions (AES), a business unit of Pharmaceutical Product Development, LLC (PPD), the global contract research organisation. Drawing on its extensive recruitment expertise and a database of over 100 million U.S. households, Acurian provides one of the largest pools of potential participants for Alzheimer’s disease longitudinal screening.

Professor Clive Ballard, Executive Dean and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “We know dementia risk can be reduced by one-third through improving lifestyle factors from midlife. Our study in the United States will provide valuable information about how the brain changes with age, which combination of factors such as exercise and diet really work, and how we can best encourage people to adopt these changes. This is already proving successful in the UK, where more than 25,000 people have signed up to help develop better approaches to prevention and treatment, and we’re delighted to help bring this opportunity to the US.”

Dr Dawie Wessels, Chief Medical Officer of Synexus, said: “Synexus HMR offers participants the opportunity to help society, and potentially themselves and their loved ones, better understand what causes cognitive decline. We hope to identify ways to prevent and treat dementia so people can maintain greater independence as they age. The registry provides a high level of engagement, pushing out relevant information about the latest advancements in dementia research and treatments, as well as brain-training games designed to help participants stay sharp.”

The first Synexus HMR study is being conducted exclusively online, meaning people with access to the internet can participate in cognitive assessments, lifestyle and medical questionnaires, and brain-training exercises without leaving their homes. In addition, participants will be among the first to learn about clinical trials of promising new treatments for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Additional information about Synexus HMR and how people in the US can participate at no cost is available at

To find out more about our world-leading dementia research, follow #ExeterDementia on twitter or visit our Dementia Research website.

Date: 23 July 2018