BEAD Optimizing the Aging Brain?

Optimizing the Aging Brain? Situating Ethical Aspects in Dementia Prevention

Project Workshops/ Meetings

As part of the international BEAD project, we hold meetings and workshops at regular intervals to advance our research together in our dementia prevention work. For these workshops and meetings, we often invite additional external experts in order to advance our research through exchange. It is important for us to engage in scientific exchange and to deepen our own knowledge to provide a nuanced and empirically informed analysis of dementia prevention.

Oktober 2022: International Symposium “‘Preventia’ – Optimizing Bios through Technologies” at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg in Delmenhorst (Germany)

The international symposium, which was organized by Annette Leibing, Silke Schicktanz, and Alessandro Blasimme, within the framework of the BEAD project and in cooperation with the Hanse Wissenschaftskolleg, took place in Delmenhorst (18 – 20 October 2022).

The symposium brought together well-known researchers from different fields such as medical anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, sociology, political sciences, or medical ethics.

In the symposium, we discussed preventive technologies in different social and disciplinary contexts. Each day had a keynote speaker: Stephen Katz spoke about “prevention by design”; Deborah Lupton on “more-than-human perspectives on prevention”, and Klaus Høyer elaborated on “prevention from a data political perspective”.  

The individual presentations – case studies of prevention technologies – allowed participants to further reflect on concerns and ethical issues and revealed the need for continuous research on high tech as well as everyday technologies in different contexts (see program). The symposium should be seen as an important step in exploring how technologies impact the life course, how aging and the end of life can be reconceptualized through them, and overall in rethinking “prevention.”

We want to thank all speakers and participants for their input and for the enriching discussions, as well as the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg for hosting and financing parts of the meeting. We further thank the funding agencies in each country that are part of the BEAD grant.

June 2022: Ethnographies Workshop (online)

The Canadian team organized an online meeting on 16th June about the basics of ethnography and possible implementation in the context of our research project.

The meeting focused on features of ethnographic research – what it is (and what it is not). We looked at the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches such as focused ethnographies, clinical ethnographies, groups with special needs, laboratory/techno/science ethnographies and the ethical aspects that need to be taken into account when implementing them.

After the successful refreshing of our methodological knowledge, the group discussed together the implementation of ethnographies in the BEAD project. We asked ourselves which aspects we want to investigate in the ethnographies and how we can anchor the discourses we investigate in everyday life.

In the project it is fundamentally important for us to recognize what is understood by prevention, whether prevention needs are the same everywhere and how prevention-related resources are distributed, accessed and used in different contexts. This all take place under the aspect of comparison between Canada, Germany and Switzerland.

We would like to thank Team Canada for organizing the workshop and all presenters and participants for the productive exchange.

December 2021: Internal workshop on dementia (prevention)

In an internal online workshop in December 2021, our team from Germany, Canada and Switzerland discussed current research on dementia prevention. We invited external as well as internal experts to report on their current research processes and results in order to discuss the connectivity of perspectives for the project.

Marco Canevelli. a Neurologist and Research Associate at the Department of Human Neuroscience, Sapienza University of Rome and at the National Center for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Italian National Institute of Health, illustrated in his contribution “The life course approach” how prevention strategies differ between countries and between ethnic and cultural groups. Referring to the “life course approach”, Canevelli supports prevention in the basic state, in which dementia prevention must also address the social determinants of health.

PI Alessandro Blasimme, in his presentation “Dementia and ground-state prevention”, makes visible the perspective of the ethics of early intervention in Alzheimer’s disease. The paradigm of early intervention is seen as problematic in this context, as it may call into question the distinction between primary and secondary prevention. Therefore, Blasimme believes that prevention that focuses on preserving functional abilities (ground-state prevention) that impact intrinsic capacity is useful and forward-looking.

Naaheed Mukadam spoke on day two of the workshop. She is an Alzheimer’s Society senior research fellow at UCL Division of Psychiatry and a Consultant Psychiatrist in the UCLH Liaison Psychiatry team. Dr Mukadam is a member of The Lancet Standing Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care. Her presentation “Diversity-sensitive approaches to dementia prevention” focused on modifiable risk factors and effective interventions. The social and financial costs of implementing dementia prevention were addressed. In addition, Mukadam outlined the differences or likelihood among social groups to develop dementia in the first place.

In his presentation “Prevention and Responsibility in German Media, Medical Science and Nursing Discourses on Dementia,” Niklas Petersen, an associate researcher in the project, presented the current status of his dissertation, which examines the discourse practice of dementia prevention and care in German nursing homes. Through discourse analysis and problem-centered interviews, Petersen examines framing and attributions of responsibility in the context of an overload of preventive measures, privatization of life risks-reduction of medical issues to individual behaviors and decisions ideologization, stigmatization of frailty in old age.

In addition to the content-related work during the two days, there was also an internal meeting of the project, in which the further procedure in the research process, focal points and necessary next steps were elicited.

We thank all speakers and participants for the insightful and successful workshop.