ACTOR Bryan Brown is stepping in to his new role as an ambassador for the Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation (AARF).
The 70-year-old veteran of Australian stage and screen spoke at the Ralph and Patricia Sarich Neuroscience Research Institute in Nedlands today about the importance of Alzheimer’s awareness.
“I’m finding so many of my friends from my generation are dealing with their partners and parents facing this disease,” Mr Brown said.
Close friend Richard Neville, founder of Oz magazine, fell to the disease in 2016.
“Richard was a hell of a character; he always pushed boundaries in thinking, and his mind was active at all times,” Mr Brown said.
“About five years ago, the onset of Alzheimer’s began.”
The actor said it was a “real wake-up call”, and his friend’s death made him think long and hard about the disease.
“Who we are is what’s in our head, and we don’t want that confused,” he said.
Mr Brown took a test to check his risk for Alzheimer’s, and to his relief handled it well for his age.
“My mind is dependent on learning and I mustn’t lose that ability or it’s over for me,” he said.
“Alzheimer’s is a major part of what’s going on in modern society.”
AARF director of research Professor Ralph Martins has been studying the disease for 33 years, and said the area has come a long way since he first started out.
“We can now diagnose Alzheimer’s 20 years before onset; this allows us to put in place preventative processes,” he said.
“Exercise has a profound effect on reducing risk, and diet plays a huge role.”
Researchers with Prof Martins at Edith Cowan University were some of the first in Australia to have access to a retinal-scanning camera – one of five in the world – that can identify beta-amyloids, known to be an indicator of Alzheimer’s.
Prof Martins said there was still no one magic trial yet, and a tight bottleneck had occurred because of a lack of funding for medical imaging.
He urged anyone worried about their memory, especially those in their 40s or 50s, or wanting to take part in trials to head to alzheimers.com.au and get involved.
Mr Brown will be appearing at a fundraising dinner for AARF this evening.