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DementiaHack 2017: Making a difference with technology

DementiaHack 2017: Making a difference with technology

On March 4th, the doors opened bright and early at MaRs Discovery District for DementiaHack 2017. Throughout the morning, registrants trickled in, setting up their computers and discussing their plans for the upcoming 36 hour-long event. An annual event hosted by Hackernest, Dementia Hack is a competition to create innovative technology to help people with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neuro-degenerative diseases. With over 300 developers gathered together to compete, the room was buzzing with eager participants, discussing and preparing their projects.

Opening remarks were led by Jordan Banks (Facebook Canada) followed by Mayor John Tory, Gerry Gallagher (Public Health Agency of Canada) and Kevin McGurgin (Dementia Hack). Each speaker noted how inspiring it was to see so many young and bright individuals working together to help people with dementia and their caregivers. The winners of the competition would receive a cash prize of $100,000 to develop their technology, but it wouldn’t just be them who won. Today, 564,000 Canadians are living with dementia, and even more people worldwide. With the help of the hard work of the developers at this event, many more resources and tools would be developed that could make a huge impact on the lives of people with dementia.

Pictured Above: Mayor John Tory speaking at opening remarks

At 10:30 am, the competition began, and each team started working on their projects. Around the room, were mentors from various backgrounds of expertise in the fields of dementia, health services and research. Team members approached mentors throughout the day to ask for their expert opinions on the design of their projects. Amongst the group of mentors, were Phyllis Fehr and Agnes Houston, who brought vital perspectives to each group. Phyllis and Agnes are both diagnosed with dementia and are prominent advocates for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Pictured above: Agnes Houston (far left), and Phyllis Fehr (second left), advising a team at the event
Pictured above: Developers at work on their application for the competition

The next day, the judges evaluated each project to determine who would take home the grand prize for the competition. One of the judges, Lisa Salapatek (Chief Program and Public Policy Officer at the Alzheimer Society of Ontario), spoke about the event and projects submitted:

“I had the honour of being a mentor and judge for the Family Caregiver Challenge set.  It turned out to be the most popular category with 20 teams competing, and their solutions and presentations were nothing short of amazing, ranging from in-home artificial intelligence and sensor systems to reduce safety concerns, to virtual scrapbooks and storytelling tools, to uber-inspired apps to help families access the support they need on demand.   There were long debates as the judges for each challenge set came together to come to come to a consensus on which teams would move on to the finals.”

After the judges had all met, the grand-prize winner of the competition was announced: Team Momentum, for their application, MemoApp. The application works by passively collecting and analyzing data about the person with dementia through natural voice recording, to help them and their caregiver better track the progression of their dementia, and to gather data for researchers to better understand the progression of dementia. The runner-ups in the competition were the applications: Bright Guide, Rescue and ConnectDem.

We look forward to seeing how these incredible applications will develop and what new and innovative ideas will be brought to next year’s Dementia Hack!

Research Video Series: Introducing Marco Prado

Research Video Series: Introducing Marco Prado

Dr. Marco Prado’s research aims to address the mechanisms by which deficient cholinergic circuits contribute to dementia. He is an Alzheimer Society Research Program Biomedical Research Grant recipient and a professor at the University of Western Ontario.

Let’s make sure that aging does not mean losing one’s identity.
-Dr. Marco Prado

Dr. Marco Prado

Biomedical Grant Recipient in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – $149,128
Project: Mechanisms of anti-cholinergic activity mediated dementia and Alzheimer’s pathology

Read about more of our grants and awards recipients here.

Research Video Series: Introducing Laura Hamilton

Research Video Series: Introducing Laura Hamilton

Dr. Laura Hamilton is testing the efficacy of a new therapeutic target (stearoyl CoA desaturase (SCD)-1) to improve learning and memory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease using a mouse model. Laura is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Montréal and is this year’s Alzheimer Society Research Program Spark Award Recipient.

The potential to contribute to a better quality of life for millions of people motivates me every day.
-Dr. Laura Hamilton

Dr. Laura Hamilton

Spark Postdoctoral Fellowship in Alzheimer’s Disease (Biomedical) – $100,000
Project: Triggers and behavioural consequences of elevated oleic acid in the Alzheimer’s disease brain

Read about more of our grants and awards recipients here.

Research Video Series: Introducing Dr. Rahel Rabi

Research Video Series: Introducing Dr. Rahel Rabi

At the University of Toronto, Rahel Rabi’s research focuses on diagnosis and detection, where she is working hard to identify the cognitive biomarkers of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). In this video, Rahel describes her research funded by the Alzheimer Society Research Program in her own words.

Scientists have made remarkable strides in understanding Alzheimer’s disease, and with recent advances in research involving novel techniques, we can work towards finding a cure.
-Rahel Rabi

Rahel Rabi

Rawlinson Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Alzheimer’s Disease (Quality of Life) – $100,000
Project: Stroop event-related potentials as neurocognitive markers for amnestic mild cognitive impairment
This project is funded by the Rawlinson Family.

Read about more of our grants and awards recipients here.

Let’s make a difference on World Alzheimer’s Day

Let’s make a difference on World Alzheimer’s Day

Alzheimer's research

Today we celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day, a perfect time to focus on the amazing work being done worldwide to conquer dementia. It is also a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness and show our support for those affected by the disease.

Dementia affects everyone, whether we know someone living with the disease, volunteer, provide care or conduct research to uncover the cure – in one way or another, we are in this together.

Ekaterina Rogaeva
Pictured above: Alzheimer’s researcher Ekaterina Rogaeva

When the Alzheimer Society of Ontario was first formed in 1983, our mission was to help people affected by dementia through expert care and support, funding research, education and increasing awareness of dementia. And we continue to do so today.

It’s pretty remarkable to think 110 years ago was when the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease were discovered. Flash forward to today – our technology and research methods are so advanced that we can use techniques such as brain imaging and biomarkers to investigate the potential causes and cures for the disease. But there is still so much more to be discovered.


I hope you will join us in recognizing World Alzheimer’s Day. A small act can help make a remarkable difference. Share this blog with a friend, sign up for our e-newsletter, or even make a donation today.

Thanks to a special match offer from the Decker Family, your donation in support of research will be doubled! For every dollar you donate, it will be matched to make twice the impact and help bring our researchers one step closer to conquering dementia.

Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. A world where our family and friends are never affected by Alzheimer’s. A world where dementia is the distant memory we cannot recall.

Thank you for your generous support!