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The Drake Foundation launches the Drake IPV Study

The Drake Foundation has announced funding for a new research study to investigate the lifelong consequences of domestic violence on brain health. The Drake IPV Study – led by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh (both UK), and funded by The Drake Foundation – will examine individuals exposed to domestic abuse, many of whom currently report a history of traumatic brain injury.

The research – overseen by Professor Willie Stewart, who leads multiple collaborative research programmes exploring outcomes from traumatic brain injury – recognises the growing awareness of the association between brain injury and increased risk of neurodegenerative disease, including dementia.

Domestic abuse – or intimate partner violence (IPV) – is common, with global estimates suggesting approximately 30% of women over age 15 years will have been exposed to physical or sexual intimate partner violence. However, there remains a lack of research in this issue, in particular the long-term consequences for those affected.

Recognising this, The Drake Foundation has awarded funding to this important new study. The Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation supporting research into traumatic brain injury, including sports-related head injuries. As with the Foundation’s research in sport-associated head injuries, it is expected that this new study will contribute a wider understanding of brain injury and its outcomes across society.

Willie Stewart, Consultant Neuropathologist and Honorary Professor at the University of Glasgow, said: “There is a need for robust investigations to better understand brain health outcomes following domestic abuse.

“Traumatic brain injury is one important risk factor contributing to risk of dementia, but there has been remarkably little research looking at the potential lifelong outcomes of trauma from IPV.“

The Drake IPV Study will access unrivalled datasets from the internationally regarded PREVENT Dementia Programme led by Professor Craig Ritchie from the University of Edinburgh.

Prof Craig Ritchie, Chair of the Psychiatry of Ageing and Director of the Centre for Dementia Prevention at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The PREVENT Dementia Programme always sought to understand the contribution of all risk factors for later life dementia and while it is now well known that head injury affects the risk of dementia, we also need to understand the source of that head injury to be able to work effectively to prevent and manage this effectively.

This funding is so critical in bringing intimate partner violence out of the shadows in terms of dementia risk.”

The researchers will look for any neuroimaging changes in the brains of individuals with a history of domestic abuse, as well as any changes that correlate with measures of exposure to traumatic brain injury, and compare these to population controls with no reported history of abuse.

“The Drake Foundation is proud to be funding this new study into this largely under-researched area,” said Lauren Pulling, the Foundation’s CEO. “With 30% of women globally estimated to be exposed to IPV at some point in their lives, this is a critical area of research. We hope that the Drake IPV Study will not only advance our knowledge of brain health in both IPV survivors and the general population, but also help to reduce the stigma around domestic abuse by bringing it into the open.”

About the Drake IPV Study

The researchers will use datasets from the PREVENT Dementia Programme to investigate cognitive test data and multi-modal neuroimaging in ~160 individuals in mid-life who have been exposed to IPV, as well as population controls.

The Drake IPV Study aims to:

  1. Interrogate multi-modal neuroimaging studies to compare structural and functional brain imaging in individuals with history of IPV compared to matched controls with no reported history of IPV. Researchers will determine whether or not people with a history of IPV show brain changes consistent with early signs of neurodegenerative disease at a higher frequency than the general population.
  2. Compare cognitive test results in people with a history of IPV compared with matched controls who have no reported history of IPV
  3. Investigate the extent to which neuroimaging and cognitive findings in individuals with history of IPV are associated with measures of prior TBI exposure.

It is hoped that this research will not only provide more knowledge about health outcomes in people with a history of IPV (and ultimately how any risk factors might be mitigated against), but also about brain injury and neurodegenerative disease in the wider population.

More information here

About The Drake Foundation

The Drake Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation committed to understanding and improving the health and welfare of people impacted by head injuries, including sports players and IPV survivors, through scientific research and collaboration. This research will also inform the understanding of neurodegenerative diseases in the wider population, and ultimately one day enable us to mitigate against disease risk.

Founded in 2014 by James Drake, the Foundation has since invested more than £2.2 million into research funding and open access resources. The majority of this funding to date has gone into research into sport-related head injuries and long-term health outcomes, with the objective of making sport safer and providing valuable insights into the processes underlying neurogenerative diseases, such as dementia. In 2021, the Foundation expanded its portfolio to include research into brain injury from IPV.

Amongst the projects that The Drake Foundation funds are the HEADING study, which is investigating the link between neurogenerative disease and a professional football career, and the BRAIN study, working with retired rugby players to understand the association between a history of concussion and neurogenerative disease.

The Drake IPV Study is the Foundation’s first study focusing on IPV, and forms part of the Drake IPV Programme, which endeavours to understand more about the short-and long-term effects of IPV on the brain, as well as apply these learnings to our understanding of brain health in the wider population.