In the first of a series of scientist profiles taken from our Annual Review 2011/12, Sarah Harrop speaks to the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Alasdair MacLullich about how he’s enlisted the skills of a toy maker to develop a new test for delirium in the elderly.
With its grey plastic case and chunky buttons, the device on the table in front of Professor Alasdair MacLullich looks like something from a 1980s episode of Tomorrow’s World. Affectionately known as the ‘Delbox’, this is the first computerised test specifically designed for detecting delirium. To the uninitiated, the word delirium might sound like a Victorian malady; a disease confined to history books. But it’s a common modern-day problem and a major risk factor for dementia and death in the elderly. New ways of detecting and treating the condition are urgently needed.
Alasdair is a professor of geriatric medicine. His interest in this area was sparked during his PhD, which looked at the link between stress hormones and cognitive impairment in the elderly. More recently, an opportunity for further research came along when Alasdair was awarded an MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship. Read more