Skip to main content

DFP will recruit 250 participants from across the UK who are over 60 and in good health, but with a family history of dementia

Participants wanted for most in-depth brain study of early Alzheimer’s disease

Exeter researchers are seeking local volunteers to take part in the world’s most detailed study into the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Deep and Frequent Phenotyping (DFP) study aims to tackle the challenge of diagnosing and tracking Alzheimer’s disease in its earliest stages – often decades before symptoms start to show. 

DFP will recruit 250 from across the UK who are over 60 and in good health, but with a family history of dementia. Volunteers will undergo a range of existing and new tests over a year-long period, including brain scans, cognitive and memory tests, scans of brain magnetic fields, retinal imaging, blood tests. They will also use wearable technology to measure movement, gait and ongoing cognitive abilities. This will be the most comprehensive set of assessments ever completed in this group of people. 

By providing this data, participants will help scientists in their quest to identify the most reliable early warning signs of this devastating disease – a crucial step towards prevention – as well as helping track response to treatments, which has been missing to date. 

Recruitment and testing will take place at various locations around the UK, and researchers are currently seeking participants in the Exeter area. 

Dr Sue Dyson, of the University of Exeter Medical School, is leading the Exeter arm of the study. She said; “We’re really keen to hear from healthy people aged 60 or over in Devon, to sign up to this trial. By doing so, you will be contributing to one of the most robust trials in the world to investigate the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease. This trial could make a huge impact on our understanding of dementia, paving the way for new treatments and prevention approaches and improving lives.” 

Dr Vanessa Raymont, of the Oxford-based Dementias Platform UK partnership and Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, is chief investigator of the DFP study. She said: ‘Many trials of new Alzheimer’s treatments fail because they aren’t delivered early enough in the disease process. The DFP study has been developed to address this problem by identifying better and earlier signs of Alzheimer’s progression.

‘What makes DFP unique is – as the name of the study suggests – the depth and frequency of the tests we’ll be carrying out to chart the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Volunteers who are eligible to take part in the study will undergo a range of assessments, generating a huge amount of data that we hope can be used to assist with the early detection of Alzheimer’s and the development of new drugs.’

The DFP study is being run from within Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), a public-private partnership involving the University of Exeter and funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).  Based at Oxford University, the partnership aims to accelerate research into the diagnosis and treatment of dementia. The study itself is jointly funded by the MRC and NIHR, and the resulting data will be made available to researchers via the DPUK Data Portal – a vast, secure online resource offering access to detailed information on over 3 million individuals from more than 40 long-term studies of health known as cohort studies.

There are 850,000 cases of dementia in the UK alone, and almost 50 million worldwide, with one new diagnosis every three seconds. One in eight people died from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in England and Wales in 2018, according to the latest public health statistics.

For more information on the DFP study, or to register your interest in taking part, visit

Date: 25 November 2020