WAMS – An ongoing study into memory

The West Australian Memory Study (WAMS) aims to find out what factors may influence memory change and follow the trajectory of cognitive changes as a person ages.

The study hopes to identify what early characteristics are specifically associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease in order to pinpoint individuals who are at a higher-than-average risk of developing dementia.

Since the study’s inception in 1996, more than 1200 people have been tested at 18-month intervals for the purpose of better understanding memory changes across the ageing process. Participants undergo clinical and memory assessments, blood sample collection, cerebrospinal fluid collection and brain imaging.

WAMS was initially established by Professor Ralph Martins with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). In recent years, funding support and facilities have been provided by ARA.


Successful projects that have been developed through WAMS include:


WA Olfactory Test (WAOMT)

The WAOMT has proven to meet the need for a comprehensive test that measures olfactory episodic memory for clinical and research applications.

There is now a lot of evidence that olfactory memory declines very quickly in the earlier stages of dementia. During the development of this test, more than 200 volunteers were tested, and retested, smelling odour samples and taking brain memory examinations.

The WAOMT was published in 2022 and has proven to meet the need for a comprehensive test that measures olfactory episodic memory for clinical and research applications. The assessment is a very useful way to identify people who may be at a higher risk of developing dementia.


WA Prospective Memory Test

Prospective memory is the ability to remember and execute a task in the future. Prospective memory declines with age and may be an early warning sign for dementia. This test was developed to assess this. The team has collected data from 200 participants.

This is a unique and non-invasive way to assess prospective memory abilities. This data also suggests that sleep disruption may contribute to age-related prospective memory deficits.


McCusker Subjective Cognitive Decline Inventory (McSCI)

This questionnaire has been developed to help with the diagnosis of someone with concerns about their memory. The McSCI is a questionnaire to be completed by someone with concerns about their memory and by someone close to them like a spouse or sibling or GP. It assesses things like language, memory and attention. A cut-off score means the test differentiates between people who need to be investigated further and those who experience changes that are a normal part of the ageing process.

The impact

WAMS is cited in research across the globe. Additionally, this study is helping to develop new screening tests to identify people who may have very early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.