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The MiND Study: a simple blood test to diagnose dementia quickly and accurately?

People with psychiatric, cognitive and/or neurological symptoms, and their clinicians such as psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, neurologists and other specialists, often face the diagnostic dilemma of, “is this a primary psychiatric disorder, or is there something neurological or neurodegenerative going on”?

Despite gold-standard assessments, this question is not easily resolved. Timely and accurate diagnosis of dementia, especially younger-onset dementia, is challenging. Did you know that patients with younger-onset dementia frequently endure a “diagnostic odyssey” of over 3-5 years, associated with multiple assessments (seeing an average of three to five specialists) and repeated and costly investigations, misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatment, uncertainty and negative outcomes, and diagnostic delay (if a diagnosis is reached at all)? 

The Markers in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (MiND) Study is a new five-year longitudinal study that hopes to solve some of these problems.

MiND is led by Professor Dennis Velakoulis (Director of Neuropsychiatry Royal Melbourne Hospital, and Clinical Director of Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre), Dr Dhamidhu Eratne (Neuropsychiatrist and PhD student), and the team at Neuropsychiatry, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victoria, Australia.

MiND is exploring the blood biomarker of neuronal injury, neurofilament light (NfL), in the assessment of cognitive, neurological and psychiatric symptoms, in a wide range of people from broad settings. Our pilot study (Eratne et al. ANZJP 2020) showed great promise for NfL as a diagnostic screening test for psychiatrists, neurologists and GPs. The ultimate aim of MiND is clinical translation, and the availability of a simple, routinely available blood test (think of it as a ‘CRP or ‘PSA’ for the brain), to improve timely and accurate diagnosis, and subsequently enhance the quality-of-life and outcomes for patients, their families, their treating clinicians, and the healthcare system at large. 

The Study, funded by MACH, MRFF and NHMRC grants, has a target of 500 patients, with recruitment planned across Neuropsychiatry, general practice, memory clinics, as well as public and private health services and specialists (e.g., psychiatrists, neurologists, geriatricians) across Victoria, and nationally. *News Flash* The Study Team recruited their first study participant at the beginning of February!

The MiND Study has partnered with national and international leaders, leading to an impressive MiND Study Group. Collaborations, just to name a few, include working closely with the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health, and The University of Gothenburg and Lund University in Sweden.

The MiND Study Group:

Professor Dennis Velakoulis
Dr Dhamidhu Eratne
Dr Courtney Lewis
Stefanie Colella
Dr Jasleen Grewal
Dr Matt Kang
Dr Hye-Sang Shin
Dr Hannah Dobson
A/Prof Andrew Evans
Dr Wendy Kelso
Dr Sarah Farrand
Dr Samantha M Loi
Professor Mark Walterfang
Neuropsychiatry, Royal Melbourne Hospital
Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, University of Melbourne

Dr Qiao-Xin Li
Dr Christiane Stehmann
Matteo Stenesi
Dr Vicki Lewis
Shiji Varghese
Dr Christopher Fowler
Professor Steven Collins
Professor Colin L Masters
Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne

A/Prof Rosie Watson
A/Prof Nawaf Yassi
Lucy Bradbury
Dr Kruti Patel
Dr Jeffrey Smith
Professor Andrew Webb
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Professor Kaj Blennow
Professor Henrik Zetterberg
University of Gothenburg

A/Prof Alexander Santillo
Dr Shorena Janelidze
Professor Oskar Hansson
Lund University

Professor Jane Gunn
Dr Cath Kaylor-Hughes
Amy Coe
Dr Christa Dang
A/Prof Victoria Palmer
Dr Cassandra Wannan
Dr Vanessa Cropley
Toni Merritt
Dr Charles B Malpas
Professor Tomas Kalincik
Dr Ilias Goranitis
Dr Tianxin Pan
Dr Nirbaan Walia
Professor Samuel L Berkovic
Professor Christos Pantelis
Professor Richard Kanaan
The University of Melbourne

Professor Terence O’Brien
Professor Patrick Kwan
A/Prof Piero Perucca
Rashida Ali
Dr Said Al Maawali
Dr Lucy Vivash
The Alfred/Monash University

A/Prof David Darby
A/Prof Amy Brodtmann
Eastern Health

Professor Anna King
The Wicking Dementia Centre

Professor Michael Berk
A/Prof Olivia Dean
Dr Adam Walker
Deakin University

and many more!

We are grateful to all our referrers, and most importantly, our patients and participants, and their families, for all their time and support.