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Expert in ageing bows out

An Aberdeen academic whose work on the ageing brain and dementia has attracted worldwide attention to the North East of Scotland bows out tomorrow (September 30).

Professor Lawrence WhalleyProfessor Lawrence Whalley - known to more than a thousand Aberdeen pensioner volunteers because they have helped him with his research - is taking early retirement after 16 years at the University of Aberdeen.

Thanks to the local volunteers who have had brain scans, given blood and other body measurements, and who have carried out simple mental tests since 1997, often repeated for up to six years, the Professor in Mental Health has explored how dementia and Alzheimer's disease are linked to childhood factors.

Among many novel findings, his research has shown:

Professor Whalley said: "I was very lucky when I joined the University of Aberdeen that I was able to use mental ability records from two generations of Aberdonians collected in two national surveys when they were aged 11.

"Prompted by Professor Cairns Smith of this University who shared neonatal archived records of 668 Aberdeen children born in 1921, I went looking for other data.

"I discovered that the Scottish Council for Research in Education had carefully archived all the tests results from all Scottish schoolchildren born in 1921 or 1936 who completed the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 or 1947.

"We tracked down more than thousand local people born in 1921 or 1936 and thanks to their involvement we could test ideas from our earlier Scottish-wide study that suggested Alzheimer's disease could be linked to childhood factors.

"Our research - which is linked closely with Professor Ian Deary's studies in the University of Edinburgh – has attracted international attention because outside Scotland no other country has held onto similar data."

This work is summarised in the book A Lifetime of Intelligence by Professor Whalley and his collaborators which is out next month.

Despite retiring, Professor Whalley has no plans to take it easy.

He added: "I have a great deal of research to write up – at least a year's full time work. I've also been invited to be a visiting Professor to the University of Canberra in Australia to join a team following up a very large cohort of old people.

"I will also be working on my new book The Ageing Mind - a sequel to the Ageing Brain - and will also be doing consultancy work on similar longitudinal studies in brain ageing in the States."

And as for the volunteers, the research goes on. A further follow up study of the 1936 cohort involving MRI scans will go ahead and be headed up by Dr Roy Soiza from Woodend Hospital;  Dr Louise Phillips from the University of Aberdeen's psychology department; Dr Geraldine McNeill, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University and Dr Alison Murray a senior lecturer in radiology at the University.


 Professor Lawrence Whalley is available for photographs and interviews today between 11am and 4pm. Colleagues are also giving him a small send off in Lochhead Day Centre Royal Cornhill Hopsital at 1.30pm. To arrange please contact Jennifer Phillips on 01224 273174.


Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Monday 29th of September 2008

Contact: Jennifer Phillips

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