Alzheimer's Association International Conference – day 1

Well, what a first day! It was inspiring to hear from and meet many of the leaders in the dementia field, all under one (very large) roof. Around 5000 people came together for the first day of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017 in London’s Excel centre. It was hectic, exciting and almost overwhelming in scale and ambition.

For me the day started with a slight error on the Docklands Light Railway, but once I’d found the right train (!) I eased my way through the slick registration process and put my poster up. Almost immediately there were people asking questions and keen to chat.

Rianna and Clare soaking up the atmosphere at the AAIC reception

The opening ceremony started with a great rendition of a few East London classic songs from a military brass band (I’m not sure whether “My old man said follow the van…and don’t dilly-dally on the way!” may have been lost on a few of the visitors!). But we quickly got down to business, Harry Johns of the Alzheimer Association talking through the impressive fundraising and advocacy successes of his organisation. This was followed by the presentation of 4 awards to truly inspiring people (check our twitter feed for details @wyldementia), three scientists and one advocate.

Although the main poster session suffered a little from being scheduled at lunchtime, there was a healthy bustle around the posters and stalls. As always at these events, I had great conversations with people who I had never met who brought a new persective to my work and great ideas to extend it (probably more than I could ever manage to do!), plus bumping in to a few old friends who I haven’t seen since the last big conference.

I would have loved to have split myself in two or three and attend more of the parallel sessions. The neuroimaging session was dominated by the new kid on the block – tau PET imaging. I say new, but this technique really seems to be maturing. Rather than talk about techniques and whether it works, tau PET is being applied with confidence to ask questions about its relation to amyloid imaging, cortical thickness and cognition – great to see.

A slice of China town, complete with delicious sweet and sour chicken

In the afternoon I went to the session on longitudinal biomarkers. If you’re not a fan of psychodelic 3D graphs, mathematical modelling and gaussian probabilistic regression this probably wasn’t the session for you! Fortunately I’m a complete geek. And again, I saw a field maturing where the impossible has become possible with the advent of multimodal biomarkers and large shared datasets, particularly ADNI.

The day was rounded off by the reception. Just check the #ADNI twitter handle for pictures of big ben, Abbey lane, union jack minis, London buses, covent garden and China town! Although the Excel Centre is out of central London, the organisers brought London to us in a big way. It was great to catch the sites with fellow WYLDers Clare Walton and Rianna Patterson. Check out the pictures!

A few pics in the back of a black cab…5 seconds between each photo to change props!

So, a great first day and I’m already looking forward to tomorrow.

Tim Rittman – WYLD steering committee member