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Scholarship to drive UC dementia study

Marcus Butler

12 February 2018: Helping people to manage dementia is motivating University of Canberra PhD candidate Nathan D’Cunha in his research and a newly announced scholarship from Dementia Australia is propelling him in his studies.

Mr D’Cunha is investigating the biochemical effects of a social intervention program which supports people with dementia to experience art in a safe space.

“A program has been in operation, but to date there’s been limited quantitative evidence to support a broader take-up and investment in it,” Mr D’Cunha said.

“My research focuses on non-invasive measures to assess the stress and inflammatory responses in individuals who participate in the art therapy program.”

“This involves a cognitive test and carer reports to evaluate changes in our participants, and also measures lifestyle factors such as nutritional intake.”

“Understanding more about biomarkers of stress and inflammation in dementia may help improve our ability to design interventions that are appropriate for people living with dementia, and may also benefit their carers.”

Mr D’Cunha is the only recipient of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation PhD Scholarship for the ACT.

“I am honoured and as a recipient of the scholarship, I aim to contribute to research in this field and hope that by doing so it will promote greater understanding and awareness of dementia, and promote greater integration of individuals with dementia into everyday life,” he said.

“I have been very lucky to have the support of a great team, led by Assistant Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition Nenad Naumovski, which has encouraged me to pursue my research passions. It was a natural progression for me to continue after receiving my Honours in 2017 to enrol in a PhD.”

Mr D’Cunha commenced his PhD in early 2018 and is currently reviewing published work in the field before constructing his own study.