STAD – Social Transmission of Cognitive and Emotional States in the Care of Alzheimer’s Disease Patients
Project Promoter: National University of Theatre and Film “I. L. Caragiale” from Bucharest, RomaniaEEA-RO-NO-2018-0606 (Contract No7, May 31th 2019)
Project Partner: Kavli Institute for System Neuroscience, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
The project proposal STAD – Social Transmission of Cognitive and Emotional States in the Care of Alzheimer’s Disease Patients – submitted by CINETic’s LDCAPEI lab to the European Economic Area Collaborative Research Projects, has been selected for funding and awarded a total of €1.4 million.
The aim of this research project is to develop an intervention based on theater and drama therapy for alleviating memory loss, anxiety, aggression and other psychiatric symptoms that manifest in Alzheimer’s disease.
The project is led by Dr. Ioana Carcea M.D./Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Rutgers University. Dr. Carcea works on neuromodulatory mechanisms for social learning, social buffering and social motivation (http://www.carcealab.com/).
She also leads the MET project at CINETic, investigating the neurochemical substrate for theatre-based therapy. The partner on the STAD project is Prof. Dr. Christian Doeller Ph.D. and his lab at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Dr. Doeller investigates the neural networks for spatial navigation and how they might be impaired in dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease is primarily characterized by progressive memory loss that eventually leads to spatial disorientation, wandering, and incapacitated daily activities.
In addition, a number of psychiatric symptoms greatly impact the quality of life in Alzheimer’s, such as anxiety, depression, apathy, social withdrawal, distrust in others irritability and aggressiveness. Some of these additional symptoms are difficult to manage and might amplify and accelerate memory loss. In particular, anxiety (stress) and memory loss seem to be in a mutually aggravating relationship. Therefore, an effective intervention should address all aspects of the disease, aiming to help Alzheimer’s Disease patients lead a fulfilling life, integrate socially, and thrive despite disease progression.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and current palliative interventions in Romania are suboptimal. As in many other developing countries, most AD patients are cared for by poorly prepared family members, adding a heavy burden on the entire family.
Some patients are also cared for in hospices that do not have an effective intervention, or appropriately trained personnel in place.
In some European countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and in the United States, there are alternative therapeutic/palliative approaches, by which dementia patients get exposed to calming images and sounds that trigger autobiographical memories, to social interactions, and different forms of exercise. Social interactions and autobiographical recollections, in particular, seem to be common elements of these progressive interventions. Another common element in these progressive interventions is creating a virtual space that would be more comfortable for patients. Such alternative interventions are now considered to be more beneficial, as many patients and their families report improved mood, decreased anxiety, and in general superior quality of life.
STAD will investigate how social interactions and autobiographical recollections in actual and virtual space could contribute to improving memory and well-being.