Assessing awareness in severe dementia


  • Dr Jonathan Huntley

    University College London

Project summary

When people have severe dementia, it can be difficult to know how much of their environment or themselves they are aware of. This is distressing for families and caregivers and makes it difficult to know how to communicate and care for them or improve their quality of life.

Recent advances in neuroimaging can shed light on the lived experience of people who are unable to communicate. Measuring brain activity while looking at faces, watching films or listening to music can reliably indicate the level and nature of a person's awareness, and this understanding has profoundly improved care for people with 'disorders of consciousness'. I will use these techniques to assess the awareness of people with severe dementia. 

My findings will deepen our understanding of the lived experience of severe dementia and form the basis for future improvements in communication and care.