Project initiator: National University of Theater and Cinematography „I. L. Caragiale ”, Bucharest, Romania
Project partner: Kavli Institute for System Neuroscience, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
EEA-RO-NO-2018-0606 (Contract Nr. 7, 31 mai 2019)
The STAD project proposal – The social contagion of cognitive and emotional states in the care process of Alzheimer’s patients – submitted by CINETic’s LDCAPEI laboratory to European Economic Area Collaborative Research Projects, was selected for funding with a multi-annual budget of 1.4 million euro.
The aim of this research project is to develop an intervention based on theatrical therapy and drama to alleviate memory loss, anxiety, aggression and other psychiatric symptoms that manifest in Alzheimer’s disease.
The project is led by Dr. Ioana Carcea, a lecturer at Rutgers University (USA), where she researches the neuromodulatory mechanisms for social learning, social buffering and social motivation. He also leads the MET project at CINETic, investigating the neurochemical substrate for theater-based therapy.
The partner of the STAD project is Prof. Dr. Christian Doeller and his laboratory at the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience Systems at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where he investigates neural networks for spatial orientation and how they are affected in patients with dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized primarily by progressive memory loss, which eventually leads to disorientation in space and inability to carry out daily activities. In addition, a number of psychiatric symptoms significantly affect the quality of life of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, such as anxiety, depression, apathy, social withdrawal, lack of trust in others, irritability and aggression. Some of these secondary symptoms are difficult to manage and can amplify and accelerate memory loss. In particular, anxiety (stress) and memory loss appear to be in an aggravating relationship.
Therefore, effective intervention should address all these aspects of the disease, aiming to help Alzheimer’s patients live a fulfilling life, integrate into society and thrive despite the disease. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and the current palliatives in Romania are suboptimal.
As in many other developing countries, most Alzheimer’s patients are cared for by family members without medical training, which often becomes a burden on the whole family. Some patients are cared for in hospices but do not have effective intervention systems or well-trained staff. In some European countries, such as the Netherlands or the United Kingdom, but also in the United States, there are alternative therapeutic / palliative approaches, whereby patients with dementia are exposed to soothing images and sounds that trigger autobiographical memories, social interactions and various forms. of exercise.
Social interactions and autobiographical memories, in particular, seem to be common elements of these progressive interventions. Another common element in these interventions is the creation of a virtual space that is more comfortable for patients. Such alternative interventions are now considered to be more beneficial, with many patients and their families reporting improved mood, low anxiety and, in general, a higher quality of life. STAD will investigate how social interactions and autobiographical memories in real and virtual space could help improve memory and well-being.