Read more about our study, why we've chosen Melbourne as our study area and understand why you may be sent a letter inviting you to participate.
We are looking for people in specific neighbourhoods. To try to give everyone aged 50-79 in each neighbourhood an equal chance of being part of the study, we are dropping a flyer in each residential letterbox and following up a week or so later by door knocking; we will leave another flyer if no-one is home when we knock. If you receive a flyer (and a knock on your door) you are in one of our target neighbourhoods. You can express an interest as soon as you receive a flyer or wait for the door knock.
Unfortunately only certain people can sign up to participate. You must be in our target age group
(50-79 years) and living in one of our 120 target neighbourhoods.
We are looking for participants from 120 target neighbourhoods spread over 60 Melbourne postcodes. These areas were chosen to ensure a mix of neighbourhood walkability (how easy it is to walk around the area), pollution (particulates and gases from sources such as industry and vehicle exhausts), and socioeconomic status (based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data).
The Australian Catholic University is an increasingly prominent Australian University with campuses in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory. It includes the Mary Mackillop Institute for Health Research (MMIHR), based in Melbourne. The MMIHR is an international leader in health research, and is home to the iMAP study, which is currently running in three countries (Melbourne, Hong Kong, and Barcelona). There is no Catholic or religious “angle” to MMIHR or the iMAP study.
Melbourne is a vibrant and liveable international city and an excellent base for the iMAP study. It’s also home to the MMIHR. So why not Melbourne?!
Are you asking why not elsewhere in Victoria? That’s a great question. Regional cities and rural areas are on our radar, but we had to have current and suitable pollution, socioeconomic and walkability data to choose the neighbourhoods to focus upon. That information is not currently available for many areas outside the capital city. And we have to start somewhere! Hopefully, we can later expand the study outside Melbourne.
Are you asking why not other cities? We are already managing simultaneous arms to the iMAP study in Hong Kong and Barcelona. We are also in negotiation with other researchers in Australia and internationally who are interested in using our methodology to run an iMAP study in their own city.
We have chosen 120 neighbourhoods across Melbourne. A “neighbourhood” is based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Statistical Area level 1 (SA1). An SA1 has a population of around 400 individuals; with about 10,000 SA1s in Melbourne. We chose 120 SA1s based on existing data on particulate air pollution (particulates are very fine “chunks” in the air from industry, transport, etc.), walkability (how easy it is to be a pedestrian around the neighbourhood), and community socioeconomic status (average household income). The 120 selected areas consist of mixtures of high and low levels of each of these three features, giving us a good representation of residents and neighbourhoods.
The iMAP study is very comprehensive – it needs to be in order to have international significance and to provide the answers we are seeking about factors involved in cognitive health, especially cognitive decline associated with ageing.
We are asking participants to come into the testing centre (Level 5, 215 Spring St, Melbourne) for a 90-120 minute session that includes an interview, a series of thinking and memory tasks, a saliva sample for DNA, and measurement of attributes such as height and balance. We then provide participants with four small devices to wear during the following week to collect information on sleep, activity, time spent sitting, and where they go (there will also be an option to sign up to have exposure to noise and air pollution monitored during the same period). After that, participants come back for another 90-120 minute interview about their neighbourhood and other places they regularly visit and what they do there.
Half of the participants then volunteer to get an MRI scan of their brain. Then we do it all again two years later to look for changes.
So yes, it is a big commitment, but it’s a couple of intensive periods rather than a long-term engagement. And you do get something in return.
First of all, we give all participants who sign up a snazzy, exclusive, limited edition iMAP fridge magnet! We’ll also give you a $50 gift voucher at the end of the second testing session, with another $50 in 2 years’ time after the second round of data collection. There will be an extra 2 lots of $30 if you sign up for 2 MRI scans, also 2 years apart. A potential total of $160 – plus the fridge magnet!
We’ll also give you a report on your physical activity, sitting and sleep patterns from the monitoring week, along with some information about your exposure to noise and pollution if you opted into those parts of the Study.
And finally, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a vital contribution to a major international research study on a very important and current topic that affects us all. (And you’ll help us beat Hong Kong and Barcelona in our friendly little recruitment competition.)
There’s a protein called Apolipoprotein E (Apo-E) that plays a range of roles in the human body. The APOE gene (part of your DNA) is an element of the control mechanism for how that protein is manufactured and deployed. There are 3 versions of that gene. One of those variants appears to be implicated in the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
We will use a DNA test to discover which version of the APOE gene you have. It will be just one of the bits of data we will be analysing. We’ll take your DNA via a saliva sample you simply spit into a tube.
Having the particular gene variant does not necessarily mean you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. It is a risk factor, like smoking and lack of physical activity also seem to be risk factors. Further, knowing you have the gene won’t change anything since you can’t alter your DNA. But you can do something about other risk factors like smoking and sedentary behaviour! And finally, the science is not yet good enough to know how big a risk factor this gene variant is – it certainly can’t be used to diagnose or even provide an early warning of Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, it is currently used more as a research tool. Taking all of this together, we will not inform participants which gene variant they have. This is common practice in research studies. The information we give you about your activity levels, how much sitting you do and how well you sleep will be vastly more useful to you as health information.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio waves to image the inside of the body without the need for radiation such as x-rays. So long as metal is not brought near the scanner (including metal within the body), it is considered a safe procedure. We will be using MRI to examine brain structure and evidence of past events like microbleeds, which can be implicated in cognitive decline and conditions like dementia. We will be particularly interested in any physiological changes between the MRI scans two years apart that might be linked to changes in thinking and memory abilities. The scans will not be used for diagnostic purposes, but they will make the iMAP study more comprehensive. We will not be giving you a copy of your MRI scans because you can’t really do anything with them. However, a qualified radiologist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (part of the Royal Children’s Hospital, where we have elected to have the MRI scans done) will look your scans over before we add them to our data. In the unlikely event that anything of concern is noticed, you will be contacted to discuss it.
We will ask you to complete a range of memory and thinking tasks during the first testing session, and then again two years later to see if there are any changes. Knowing the results for any of those tests is of little value from a diagnostic point of view. A health professional testing memory and thinking, in order to make a clinical diagnosis, might use these or similar tests, but they would be part of a larger set of tests and other measures – they wouldn’t rely on results from individual tests. So, because the results for these tests are mostly meaningless to you, but very important for us as a piece of data, we won’t be providing you the results.
No. Whilst genetic testing can provide a wealth of information, we are only collecting your APOE gene variant. The results of this test will not be provided to anyone.
We are located on Level 5, 215 Spring St, Melbourne; near the intersection with Lonsdale St, directly opposite Parliament Station.
The iMAP study was granted research ethics approval by the ACU Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) in October 2018 – HREC number 2018-191H.