Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a common type of dementia. One of the main DLB symptoms is cognitive fluctuations, which refers to brief episodes of confusion, and problems with attention and communication. This symptom can negatively impact patients and their carers/families. We know that up to 90% of people with DLB have the symptom of cognitive fluctuations, but we don’t know what causes them; additionally, we can’t reliably and accurately measure them as we don’t have a precise definition.
This project aims to: 1) better understand cognitive fluctuations, by measuring changes to attention over an extended period of time, and 2) examine whether sleep/sleepiness is associated with cognitive fluctuations, given the close relationship between sleep and attention/memory.
Twenty-four people with DLB, 24 with Alzheimer’s dementia and 24 control individuals will take part in the study. Participants will complete a range of assessments designed to assess attention, memory, sleep and cognitive fluctuations. Participants will then spend one week recording their cognitive fluctuations and sleep habits, using short questionnaires, brief computerised tests, and special watches which monitor movement. We are also interested in how cognitive fluctuations impact upon carers and families. Participants will then complete a laboratory visit where they will complete computerised attention tests, and a brief non-invasive brain stimulation assessment, which might be a useful objective clinical or research marker of cognitive fluctuations, whilst having their brain activity measured. Finally, we will follow participants up by telephone and measure cognitive fluctuations.
Overall, this study will help us to understand the cause of cognitive fluctuations, further the development of more sensitive clinical and research tools, and also indicate whether modifying sleep might help cognitive fluctuations.