CCACE MRC Centenary Early Career Researcher Awards

To mark 100 years of achievements by Medical Research Council (MRC) scientists, the MRC offered the very best of its early career researchers the opportunity to accelerate their research and their career development. £12M was available to eligible MRC early career researchers to provide extra time and resources to take new and challenging research to a decisive stage and develop skills that would allow early career researchers to move to the next step in their careers.

In July 2012, Six CCACE researchers were successfully awarded £120,000 from this call. As the applications were of an extremely high standard CCACE is contributing the balance of £16,500.  The successful projects were:

- Dr Tom Booth (£29,500): Picturing the brain at age 92: An imaging study of the LBC1921.
- Dr Catherine Calvin (£24,500): Linking the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1947 to health records.
- Dr Fergus Doubal (£20,000): Measuring vascular reactivity in cerebral small vessel disease.
- Dr Dominika Dykiert (£23,700): Diabetes or poor cognition: Which comes first?
- Dr Mario Parra (£14,000): Mechanisms of working memory binding deficits in Alzheimer’s disease.
- Dr Zoe Tieges (24,800): Software for the detection and monitoring attentional deficits in delirium.

Mario Parra Investigates Working Memory Binding

For example, the Centenary Early Career Research Awards scheme is supporting CCACE member Dr Mario A Parra to help set up a new international network to investigate brain disconnection as the underlying mechanism of working memory binding deficits in preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease.  The one-year grant is supporting the collaboration between the Human Cognitive Neuroscience (HCN) group and CCACE at the University of Edinburgh and the Institute for Cognitive Neurology (INECO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It aims to build an infrastructure, focussing on the harmonization of methods. It is also expected to enable data sharing between labs, boost sample sizes and the robustness of future analyses.

A second aim of the collaboration is to combine both expertise and resources in behavioural and electrophysiological methods to develop biomarkers of neurodegeneration.  Dr Mario Parra visited INECO in March and April this year to develop the collaboration. During his visit the research team focussed on the analysis of the data collected in the first two experiments. The first addressed behavioural measures of working memory binding, a function known to be highly sensitive to Alzheimer’s disease. This first experiment was also aimed at preparing the memory binding task for simultaneous EEG and ERP recording. The second experiment looked at EEG activity from 23 healthy young participants while they performed the memory binding task. Initial results have allowed us to identify the most suitable setting to investigate brain connectivity mechanisms subserving binding functions carried out in working memory. Using the Default Mode Network (DMN) methodology we will learn how this connectivity builds in intact brains and how the disconnecting pathology develops in brains undergoing neurodegeneration.

Dr Agustin Ibañez, Director of the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience, INECO will visit CCACE in June to continue with the harmonization process and help to set up the DMN lab. The initial support received from the MRC has proved fruitful and it is intended that this support will lead to a major grant application by the end of 2013.