NHSA supports launch of new Cognitive Frailty Interdisciplinary Network

CFIN is one of 11 newly formed Interdisciplinary Ageing Across the Life Course networks aimed at transforming ageing research in the UK.

26th March 2022

The NHSA is proud to play a role in the formation of an exciting new Cognitive Frailty Interdisciplinary Network (CFIN) – one of 11 new networks, which has received a major funding boost from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

CFIN is led by Professor Carol Holland, at Lancaster University’s Centre for Ageing Research (C4AR), with collaborators from our members Newcastle University and Sheffield Hallam University, along with Aston University and Heriot-Watt University.

We sit on an important international External Advisory Group (EAG) chaired by colleagues at Durham University – another of our member organisations.

Entitled “Harnessing knowledge of lifespan biological, health, environmental and psychosocial mechanisms of cognitive frailty for integrated interventions”, CFIN is one of 11 newly formed Interdisciplinary Ageing Across the Life Course networks aimed at transforming ageing research in the UK.

Funded with £2 million from the BBSRC and the MRC across the 11 networks, researchers at 28 UK universities will study how to increase healthy lifespan and quality of life in old age and address health inequalities.

Working across disciplines, CFIN will bring together biogerontologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, social scientists and the voice of the older person, to understand mechanisms of cognitive frailty and identify pathways for targeted interventions across the lifespan.

It was originally discussed by the NHSA Healthy Ageing Network, with the CFIN proposal emerging from these discussions. The NHSA facilitated the EAG for the network and we will have ongoing involvement in its development.

Dr Mandy Dixon, Head of Corporate Engagement at the NHSA, said: “We are delighted that Lancaster University, working with other university partners at Newcastle University, Sheffield Hallam, Durham University, Heriot Watt and Aston University, has been awarded funding by the BBSRC and MRC to lead the Cognitive Frailty Interdisciplinary Network.

“Healthy Ageing is a core strand of work for the NHSA, putting the health and wellbeing of older people front and centre. We are proud to have been involved in the project from the start, helping to bring together a range of disciplines and perspectives to mobilise and successfully respond to opportunities which support the ageing population.

“Alongside the other UK-wide networks, CFIN will explore the biological mechanisms of cognitive frailty to develop a deeper understanding of ageing and how to increase quality of life for older people. It is an innovative initiative, which has huge potential for real world benefits for people in later life, helping them to stay healthier for longer.”

Cognitive frailty is when individuals are both physically frail and have a cognitive impairment, compared with typical individuals of the same age, but without dementia. We do not yet fully understand the biological mechanisms causing cognitive frailty, or how these relate to lifestyle factors that correlate with cognitive frailty later in life, such as educational attainment and environmental inequalities.

Lead researcher, Professor Carol Holland at the Centre for Ageing Research, Lancaster University, said: “We know that as we get older, our bodies often can’t do what they used to and we may become frailer. We also know that our mind is often not as sharp as it used to be. These physical and cognitive changes are often seen even when we don’t have diagnosed age-related diseases such as arthritis or dementia. Physical frailty and cognitive frailty are often present at the same time in older adults.

“What is striking, however, is that the relationship between physical and cognitive frailty isn’t just because both are linked to older age. We don’t fully understand how one might cause the other or what drives this co-occurrence.”

The 11 UK-wide networks will engage with the public, industry, charities, policymakers and health practitioners, with the aim of translating findings into future policy, public health and new therapies.

The network has been co-funded by the BBSRC and MRC, Grant Ref: BB/W018322/1. Find out more here.

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