A call to action on dementia research for the behavioral and social sciences
We are elated to announce that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has released a new NIA-sponsored report highlighting behavioral and social science research opportunities in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias over the next 10 years. For its Reducing the Impact of Dementia in America: A Decadal Survey of the Behavioral and Social Sciences, NASEM compiled extensive input from the scientific community and other stakeholders to assess the state of the science and identify key areas of promise for social and behavioral research.
Opportunities for engagement
The report highlights ways that investigators from a range of behavioral and social science disciplines — including economics, demography, social epidemiology, behavior change, sociogenomics, and decision neuroscience — can become involved in Alzheimer’s and related dementias research. The great news is there are already many relevant opportunities: Several priorities highlighted in the NASEM Decadal Survey research recommendations are well-aligned with NIA’s existing activities and will also inform future directions.
Here are some examples of high-priority areas identified in the report and the steps NIA is taking to address them:
- We are working to improve screening and diagnosis through the Screening for Cognitive Impairment: Decision-Making Approved Concept, NIA-sponsored NASEM Workshop on Biomarkers and Other Preclinical Diagnostics, and other ventures.
- We are identifying and exploring complex social exposures or behaviors relevant to dementia risk, which aligns with RFA-AG-22-025: Data Enhancements and Analyses to Clarify the Relationship Between Education and Cognitive Function (including Alzheimer’s and related dementias).
- Regarding the development of platforms to facilitate fielding pragmatic trials to test efficacy and effectiveness of promising nonpharmacological interventions, we plan to respond in part through projects funded via PAR-21-308: Pragmatic Trials for Dementia Care and Caregiver Support.
- Through our newly approved concept, Health Equity and the Cost of Novel Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias, we aim to support the development of improved means for estimating the impact of new treatments, including drugs.
An expansive portfolio
The topics highlighted above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NIA’s Alzheimer’s and related dementias behavioral and social research programs. Our ever-growing portfolio is designed to advance our understanding of the etiology and epidemiology of these diseases; enable international comparisons of dementias risk and prevalence; and elucidate the interplay of biological risk, behavior, and social determinants to identify causal pathways to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The research we support features a wide variety of approaches — from direct interventions to economic analyses, to measurement innovation — and we are always open to new ideas.
We want to hear from you!
Reach out to our Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) Program Officials to discuss your ideas and find your place in our Alzheimer’s and related dementias research portfolio. And visit NIA’s approved concepts page throughout the year to get an early peek at likely future initiatives. We look forward to expanding the research in several of the directions highlighted in the NASEM Decadal Survey!