Portrait of Professor Laura Fratiglioni

Laura Fratiglioni - Professor of Medical Epidemiology, especially Dementia at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society since 2000.

Laura Fratiglioni's major research interest is epidemiological studies of neurodegenerative diseases in the elderly. Specifically, Laura Fratiglioni and her group are involved in the following research lines:

  • Risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, including genetic, biological and environmental factors
  • Natural history of the dementias
  • Mild cognitive impairment and early detection of AD and VaD
  • Multimorbidity and disability in the elderly
Professor Laura Fratiglioni , Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society (NVS) Photo: Stefan Zimmerman

Her major contribution to the field of epidemiology of aging concerns the following topics:

Primary prevention of Alzheimer's disease

Around 24 million people have dementia in the world, with the number being projected to double every 20 years, and that 60 per cent of dementia patients live in developing countries, with the proportion being raised to more than 70 per cent by 2040. Laura Fratiglioni's group have provided strong evidence supporting the role of the genetic background in all dementia subtypes and suggesting possible preventive strategies. Vascular factors, such as midlife hypertension, diabetes, and cerebrovascular disease, contribute significantly to the development of dementia and Alzheimers disease, and that active engagement in mental, physical, and social activities may postpone the onset of dementia by providing cognitive reserve.

Secondary prevention of dementia

Cognitive deficits are observable up to ten years before a dementia diagnosis with a sharp decline more evident in the final three years . The research group have validated the use of such early disturbances as a predictive tool of incipient dementia in the general population and found that until now no one of the proposed definitions has shown a sufficiently good predictivity at the community level. This is due mostly to the fact that cognitive impairment is a common condition in the elderly population and caused by multiple causes. Anxiety symptoms may be a reliable predictor of progression to dementia.

Disability, multimorbidity and longevity

More than 50 per cent of the 75+ old persons are affected by multimorbidity. Low education increases the risk of multimorbidity, suggesting that unhealthy behaviors linked to educational level or SES in early life may still play a role in the health status of the very old. Disability and mortality are strongly related to multimorbidity, but a clear genetic influence in longevity is still present with different effect in men and women.

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