Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles One of the major areas of research focus for us currently is the role that sleep plays in the development and perpetuation of dementia. By 2050, there’ll be around a million Australians living with dementia, so the rates are expected to quadruple in the next few decades. Sleep, as we now understand it, plays a key role in detoxifying the brain so our brain is a bit like a plumbing system, and sleep facilitates that, so it gets rid of all the toxins and harmful proteins that we know are involved in many types of dementia. It’s really interesting, we now understand that ten to twenty years before someone even presents with clinical symptoms, these changes in the brain leading to dementia are already occurring. So if we can target sleep early enough as a risk factor, and find better ways to screen for sleep disturbance, we’ll actually be able to potentially delay the onset of dementia or even reduce the cases of dementia. A project we’re working on at the moment is focused on what’s called REM sleep behaviour disorder. So this is when people lose the muscle paralysis, or atonia that we normally have while we’re sleeping and that results in us acting out our dreams, so kicking or screaming, or hitting or punching while we’re sleeping, and this is really significant because it’s what we call a prognostic marker for the development of either Parkinson’s disease, or dementia. So what we’re trying to do is focus on better ways to screen for REM sleep behaviour disorder, and also looking at new forms of intervention that could treat this. This line of research is really exciting, because it’s a way that we can start to think about targeting the brain, or targeting sleep in order to improve people’s memories. So I see it as a real way to translate and have impact on the wellbeing of older people that we see in our program.