I was delighted to stand in for Professor Julie Williams to give a talk entitled "What do we know about dementia?" at the Hay Festival 2012. This formed part of the Cardiff University series of talks at festival. There was an audience of around 450 people who attended the event. In the talk I discussed the way in which diseases like Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia affect different brain areas and affect functions such as memory, language, behaviour and visuo-spatial problems. I discussed the types of problems that patients, their carers and families face with these conditions.
Dementia will become an increasingly important problem in an aging population. Despite an annual cost in the UK of over 20 billion pounds a year, relatively little is spent on researching the area. I outlined the advances in dementia genetics and the way in which this has the potential to identify new therapies for patients with disease like Alzheimer's disease, fronto-temporal dementia and motor neuron disease. A series of new genes have been identified in Cardiff which increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. I described our work in identifying a new gene which causes familial fronto-temporal dementia and is the commonest gene for familial motor neuron disease in the world.
There were a series of lively questions on interventions that might delay the onset of dementia, the role of environmental factors and the organization of care in the UK. The audience included many people with a personal experience of dementia and I was impressed by their enthusiasm and support for our research.
Written by Huw Morris, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics
Ian Jones presenting at the Hay Festival this year
I was very happy that of the many ideas for talks submitted to the Hay Festival this year from Cardiff University, they chose the topic of "Motherhood and the Mind" as one of the Cardiff Series. I had been to the Hay Festival on a number of previous occasions and very much enjoyed it, so was looking forward to giving a talk. It was great to hear that the talk had been moved to a bigger venue and that we had almost sold out the 300 seats.
In my talk I covered what we know about the link between childbirth and mental illness, and argued that the airbrushed images of perfect motherhood we are presented by the media are not the experience of every woman. I talked about postpartum psychosis, the link to bipolar disorder and the severity of these episodes. We discussed the tragic cases of suicide and the other ways in which these episodes can be so devastating for women and their families. I then talked about how research is helping us understand more about the triggering of illness by childbirth, and how we are making progress in Cardiff in understanding the genetic factors that may be involved. After about 40 minutes, I took questions from the very knowledgable audience which ranged widely from details of the science to women talking about their own experience. At the end of the hour, many more people came up to ask further questions and to share their experiences. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd clearly showed that postpartum disorders are of great interest for many people. I hope they went away understanding more about postpartum psychosis and the work we are conducting in Cardiff. I certainly went away from Hay having had a fantastic day, and with new ideas and perspectives to incorporate into our research.
Written by Ian Jones, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics