Dr Ashleigh Smith

Dr Ashleigh Smith is a neurophysiologist who is optimising dementia prevention by positioning her research at the nexus of neuroscience, exercise science and cognition. Since 2013, she has been awarded $1.76 million in competitive grant funding and has published >35 peer-reviewed papers in high-impact international journals. Her NHMRC funded research program aims to optimise exercise prescription for brain health in older adults at risk of dementia. This involves optimising the type, intensity and the environment of exercise for brain health. In 2017, Ashleigh’s research excellence and public engagement in science was formally recognised as a South Australian Young Tall Poppy award recipient and she was short-listed for Young Tall Poppy of the Year.

Building your best day for dementia prevention….the how to of reducing modifiable risk factors for dementia

The simple act of reducing screen time, getting more sleep, connecting with friends and family and moving more all reduce risk factors for dementia

Approximately 500,000 Australians live with dementia, and with no treatment breakthroughs, this number is predicted to increase to 1.1 million by 2056. In the absence of effective treatment, the best prevention strategy is to reduce modifiable dementia risk factors. Over the past decade there has been a rapid increase in identification of modifiable risk factors for dementia. Activities such as excessive screen time, inappropriate sleep, insufficient physical activity, few social connections and inadequate cognitive engagement have all been shown to independently increase an individual’s dementia risk.

Until recently, research has largely considered these activities separately. However, each of these activities are not separate, but are intrinsically linked as distinct parts of a 24-hour day. Since time within each day is finite to increase time spent in one activity (e.g. exercise), equal time must be taken from other lifestyle behaviours that may also influence dementia risk (e.g. sleep). Drawing on current research, Dr Smith will synthesise the evidence underlying the protective effects of different daily behaviours with a particular focus on dementia. She will then outline the importance of considering the entire day to optimise dementia prevention.