Dr Sabina Brennan, Trinity College Dublin, talks about the public impact of the NEIL Project – Neuro Enhancement for Independent Lives
The Neuro-Enhancement for Independent Lives (NEIL) Project in Trinity College Dublin was one of the earliest grants supported by Atlantic and was in part a response to the nihilistic view of dementia that nothing could be done about the disease.It was in essence support for a countervailing view, that science matters and that brain health is the other side of the coin to cognitive decline. Over time, the NEIL project has brought together a core group of researchers to focus on a major programme of research to delay and/or prevent dementia across three interlinked strands:
- Research in dementia and cognitive enhancement
- Development and evaluation of interventions to support people with dementia
- Education of people about dementia including the risk factors associated with the disease.
Practical and user friendly projects developed by NEIL to improve cognitive function and identify markers of cognitive decline and health and wellbeing of family carers, include.
- Automated Cognitive Assessment Delivery – an automated, repeatable , computerised, cognitive assessment tool which can be delivered online.
- Active Body, Active Brain – a course to train 30 Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) staff in Cognitive Stimulation Therapy in the community.
- Caregiver Support Tool – a software application, presented on a touchscreen tablet, aimed at giving educational support for spousal caregivers.
- DemPath – a study to integrate care for people across the Dublin South Inner city and St. James’ Hospital.
- De-Stress – ensuring health and well being of spousal caregivers.
- FreeDem Films – a series of online films to provide practical information, grounded in science, on maintaining cognitive help.
On the Ground
NEIL has been successful in generating significant funding, research and training. It has attracted 22 national and international sponsors. It has undertaken 25 research programmes in total and has trained nearly 70 interns and volunteers, Masters and PhD students.
Learning Creatively About Dementia
One of the highlights of the NEIL project has been the creative and simple way in which learning has been communicated. The FreeDem films are a particular highlight. They have been viewed and shared tens of thousands of times and have been translated into many languages and are being used by health institutions across the world.