Dr Jo Barnes is making huge strides in a field typically led by men. By careful analysis of brain scans taken in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr Barnes has revealed that the very earliest symptoms people experience in Alzheimer’s disease are not always memory-related and that behavioural changes might be the first sign of underlying disease. She has also found that the kind of symptoms people first experience are dependent on age, with more non-memory symptoms experienced by younger people. A better understanding of the initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s may help the disease to be spotted earlier. Earlier diagnosis would not only allow people to get access to support sooner, but also identify people who can take part in clinical trials for new therapies which would have greatest effect early on in the disease.
Dr Barnes is also interested in how changes in blood vessels with age can cause nerve cell damage. She uses sophisticated brain imaging tools to detect changes in blood vessels and map how damage in one area can spread through the brain. Through this work, Dr Barnes hopes to understand the steps which contribute to poor brain health in later life and crucially what can be done to halt the spread of damage.