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The Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA) started in 1988 and the last LEAD participants were seen in March 2015. We are no longer recruiting to any of the cohorts. However, we are currently creating the OPTIMA Legacy Resource from which data collected from the OPTIMA cohorts is available and samples are biobanked and available. Brain tissue is available as part of the Brains For Dementia Research (BDR) collection.


General enquiries

Dr Louise Silver
Wolfson Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia
John Radcliffe Hospital
Headley Way

Brain donation enquiries

For OPTIMA participants who transferred to Brains for Dementia Research (BDR):

Bethany Honcoop
Room 4401D | Level 4 | John Radcliffe Hospital |Oxford |OX3 9DU

Office: 01865 234 309
Mobile: 07825 681 063

For OPTIMA participants who did NOT transfer into BDR:

Carolyn Sloan
Level 1 West Wing | John Radcliffe Hospital | Oxford | OX3 9DU

Office: 01865 234204



OPTIMA was founded in 1988 by Professor David Smith (Professor of Pharmacology), Dr Kim Jobst (Senior Research Fellow), Elizabeth King (Senior Research Nurse) and Professor Margaret Esiri (Professor of Neuropathology) to study one of the great medical and social challenges of our time: the causes of dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease.

Professor Gordon Wilcock took over from Professor Smith as Director in 2008 and Professor Peter Rothwell took over as custodian of the cohorts in 2017.

OPTIMA's mission has been: To advance our understanding of the causes, treatment and prevention of dementia in the context of providing support and education for research participants and carers.

Read more about the history of OPTIMA in an article by Professor David Smith.


OPTIMA has collected information on both cognitively impaired and cognitively normal elderly people during life and correlated this information with the findings at post mortem brain examination, if consent to brain donation has been given.

The data collected from the OPTIMA cohorts includes:

  • A detailed medical history and physical examination
  • Neuropsychological assessments
  • Brain scans - Computed Tomography (CT), Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Blood, urine and csf samples
  • Histopathological information following brain donation
  • DNA is also available



OPTIMA began recruiting in 1988 and continued until 2008. Participants in the main cohort were seen at least annually, in most cases until death. If they became unable to participate fully in the assessments information continued to be obtained from a study partner (someone who knew them well). Some OPTIMA participants went on to join the LEAD cohort.


In 2009 we began recruiting to a cohort of people with early Alzheimer's disease, people with mild memory problems, and also normal subjects, who were followed up for three years. There are 200 LEAD subjects, including 32 control participants, 45 with subjective memory impairment, 45 with Mild Cognitive Impairment, 28 with probable early AD, and others with different causes of cognitive impairment.


In September 1997 OPTIMA recruited 158 cognitively normal elderly people in the community, under the MRC 'Foresight Challenge Initiative'. Participants underwent similar protocols to the main OPTIMA cohort but in addition had serial volumetric MRI scans, and more advanced neuropsychology. This was initially a four year study but we have been fortunate in having opportunities to reassess the Challenge cohort at various time points.

Other studies

VITACOG was a two-year randomised, placebo-controlled pilot trial to determine the effect of treatment (vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid) on the rate of shrinkage of the brain and on memory function in people over 70 years with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). The study ran from 2005 to 2009. Participants had neuropsychological assessments, MRI brain imaging, blood and urine tests and examination of vital signs (heart rate and blood pressure). Data, imaging and biosamples are available from the study.

Lead researchers: Professor Robin Jacoby, Professor A David Smith, Professor Helga Refsum

For all enquiries regarding VITACOG please contact Professor David Smith: