World-leading dementia scientist to join UNSW and NeuRA

Professor Kaarin Anstey will lead an innovative multi-disciplinary team addressing ageing when she joins UNSW and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) next year.


Professor Kaarin Anstey. Photo: NeuRA

Professor Kaarin Anstey will join UNSW Sydney and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) to lead an innovative multi-disciplinary team addressing ageing research, with a focus on vital community lifestyle solutions around dementia in the Australian community. 

Professor Anstey will take up a Chair in the School of Psychology, Faculty of Science, and a position of NHMRC Principal Research Fellow at NeuRA. She will begin her new position in January 2018, based at NeuRA in Randwick.

This landmark joint appointment between UNSW and NeuRA has been facilitated by strategic recruitment programs: UNSW's SHARP (Strategic Hires and Retention Program) and the NeuRA Discovery Fund.

"I am delighted to be joining this alliance of partners with such excellent records and strengths in innovative and progressive neuroscience research at both NeuRA and UNSW," Professor Anstey said of her appointment.

"I’m looking forward to expanding my research programs on the epidemiology of cognition and dementia with a focus on identifying lifestyle, brain and biological risk factors that lead to cognitive decline, and the impact of cognitive ageing on everyday function and safe driving in the individual and broader community.

"I am also interested in how cognitive decline impacts on the capacity individuals have to make good decisions about their finances and health. I look forward to working more closely with new and existing colleagues."

By 2053, 21% of the Australian population will be aged 65 and over (8.3 million people) and 4.2% aged 85 and over (1.6 million people). This unprecedented demographic shift will result in dramatic changes in the need for health and care services.

It highlights a critical need for preventive health approaches and interventions to enable older adults to retain their independence. Of those aged 65+, 20-25% will have some degree of cognitive impairment, with 5-7% developing dementia.

Professor Anstey believes there is huge scope for research to improve how people age through preventive health strategies, the use of technology and specific skill training.

Using psychological and population health approaches, her research programs focus on interventions to reduce risk of dementia, cognitive ageing and decision-making, interventions to improve driving skill, and longitudinal studies of health and ageing.

Over the next five years Professor Anstey will focus on four key projects: the development of a global research network for dementia prevention and building the evidence base on risk and protective factors for cognitive decline and dementia; physical and mental resilience in ageing; how cognitive decline impacts on decision-making; and how to keep older drivers on the road for longer.

Professor Anstey brings a unique breadth of research expertise applied to real-world problems.

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Anstey, a world leader in ageing and dementia research, to UNSW Sydney.

"Professor Anstey is a member of the WHO Guideline Development Group on Dementia Risk Reduction, reflecting the key roles that our research leaders take in addressing major health problems in our community."

Professor Peter Schofield, CEO and Executive Director of NeuRA, said Professor Anstey would bring a breadth of expertise in both ageing and dementia research.

"She will add a crucial new dimension to our research programs, through her leadership of the longitudinal study of the psychiatric epidemiology of dementia via the PATH through life study," he said.

UNSW Dean of Science Professor Emma Johnston said: "Professor Anstey brings a unique breadth of research expertise applied to real world problems. Ranging from dementia risk reduction programs through to helping to define the parameters required for safe driving in older Australians, her ability to provide intellectual leadership is critical for our success."

UNSW Head of School of Psychology Professor Simon Killcross said: "With specific translational research projects in cognitive health promotion in primary care and promoting older adults’ mobility and good health, Professor Anstey demonstrates how her research agenda will enhance the strengths in Psychology at UNSW. We are the top-rated School in Australia and look forward to her arrival further lifting our performance."

UNSW Professor John Piggott, Director of the ARC Centre of Research Excellence in Ageing Research (CEPAR), said: "We are delighted to have our long-time colleague and CEPAR Co-Deputy Director join us at UNSW. Collaboration is the key to our joint engagement in CEPAR and having Professor Anstey as a campus colleague will greatly enhance our interactions."