The Disconnected Mind

Health and Welfare

This research project was undertaken by Professor Ian Deary at the University of Edinburgh, and was designed to help gain a better understanding of how cognitive ability deteriorates with age, leading to loss of independence amongst older people. The Trust’s support for “The Disconnected Mind” was prompted by  co-founder Sidney De Haan’s diagnosis and experience of vascular dementia towards the end of his life. The aim of the project was to research how an ageing population might better come to terms with issues of declining cognitive ability, perhaps enabling individuals to adopt lifestyle measures that would help to protect themselves and also equipping health and social care professionals to provide better care for those affected.

The project was supported by Age UK, and began by using data gathered from the 1947 “Scottish Mental Survey” that recorded the mental and cognitive abilities of over 70,000 children.  Professor Deary was able to recruit over 1000 of those who had taken part in the original survey, now in their seventies, to collaborate with him to provide comparative data. Each of them took the same test again at age 70, 73 and 76, providing comprehensive information about their lifestyle and state of health, as well as further data releating to genetics and biology. Using these different sets of data, Professor Deary and colleagues have gained a unique insight into issues associated with cognitive ageing. Key findings were published in Age UK’s book “Improving Later Life: Understanding the Oldest Old”: a downloadable version is available at this link:

 Further details about the Disconnected Mind projects are available at