PROTECT Study aims to understand how healthy brains age and why people develop dementia


The Platform for Research Online to investigate Cognition and Genetics in Ageing (PROTECT), first launched in 2014, is an online research tool led by the applicants. PROTECT is currently a cohort of over 25,000 adults aged over 50 who are cognitively healthy or have early cognitive impairment within the UK.


Participants provide demographic and lifestyle information and will complete a battery of validated cognitive assessments annually. They will also provide a DNA sample to enable genetic association work to be completed. The aim of the cohort is to provide a rich source of longitudinal data on cognitive changes as the brain ages to understand how healthy brains age and why people develop dementia. The valuable additional function of PROTECT is that it also provides a unique platform for online clinical trial delivery.


The study aims to recruit 50, 000 participants and gathers data for across the period of 25 years for individuals participating in the study. Over 650,000 assessments have been completed and research analysis is underway to explore important health and social related research topics including cognitive impairment, diabetes, use of social media, menopause, autism and mental health. PROTECT is continuously building on key feedback gained through the PROTECT dedicated PPI group, engaging with PROTECT users on regular basis to gauge feedback and key research needs.


One participant said “I'm pleased to say that I found the PROTECT Study very interesting, helpful to understand how memory degrades and affects normal daily life. I was particularly pleased to be able to contribute to this important research which affects millions of people as they age.”


The newly updated website has been designed to enable nested interventions to be embedded into it, which participants are then invited to enrol for. Optimised brain training interventions have been delivered successfully with 7000 -1000 older adults above the age of 50, completing end of trial. After six months, brain training led to significant improvements in scores on the test of daily living in people over 60, and significant improvement in reasoning and verbal learning in those over 50, compared to those who didn’t play the reasoning and problem-solving games. Playing the brain training games five times per week was most effective in bringing about these improvements. Recently a study has been launched to see impacts of vitamin D to improve brain health in older adults. PROTECT is also playing its role in assessing care needs and psychological impacts of Covid-19 pandemic in older adults undergoing self-isolation.

The first stage of this study was online brain training, with the largest randomised control trial to date of an online brain training package. Involving almost 7,000 adults aged over 50, it was also the first to evaluate the impact of computerised brain training on how well people can perform their daily activities.


After six months, brain training led to significant improvements in scores on the test of daily living in people over 60, and significant improvement in reasoning and verbal learning in those over 50, compared to those who didn’t play the reasoning and problem solving games. Playing the brain training games five times per week was most effective in bringing about these improvements.

To take part, visit: https://www.protectstudy.org.uk/ Follow the study on Twitter via @ProtectStudy