Alzheimer’s sufferers are having their DNA measured and behaviour monitored to pinpoint who is most at risk from developing behaviour problems from dementia.

Associate Professor Gerard Byrne and his research team from The University of Queensland’s Department of Psychiatry, are seeking about 200 Brisbane volunteers for the Ageing and Behaviour Study.

They are looking for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or with symptoms such as memory loss, language problems, personality changes or difficulty performing easy tasks.

Participants need to have a relative, friend or carer willing to answer monthly questionnaires about them over the phone.

They will need to accompany them to the research clinic every six months for the three-year study to have brain scans and analyse their DNA.

“We’re not looking for any particular age but we expect that people will mainly be in their mid 70s, that’s just in the nature of the illness,” Professor Byrne said.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a common and debilitating disorder in Australia, affecting more than six percent of the population over the age of 65.

Professor Byrne said behavioural problems in Alzheimer’s disease often lead to patients going into nursing homes earlier than needed.

“They [behavioural problems] cause a lot of distress to carers and they lead to a lot of drug prescription by doctors.

“Not everyone with Alzheimer’s disease will develop behavioural problems but with the information collected in this study we may be in a better position to predict who is likely to develop these symptoms and target our treatment better.”

It is planned to have several hundred patients for the Alzheimer’s study if it is extended to other states, depending on funding.