Cutting Edge Lecture in Science: The rising tide of dementia: challenges for statisticians
By David Wolfson (Professor, Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics, McGill)
As we live longer we become more vulnerable to diseases associated with aging. Dementia is one class of such diseases that not only will touch almost every one of us either directly or indirectly but will also place an increasing burden on society. There are many different types of dementia although by far the most common is due to Alzheimer’s disease. As a statistician, my interest in dementia began with a question posed by a principal investigator on The Canadian Study of Health and Aging: “How long do people live following the onset of dementia?” I will tell the story of how my co-researchers and I sought to answer this question, and of our surprising findings, using an area of statistics called survival analysis. Like the Hydra, however, a problem solved quickly led to new questions; these will be part of the story. I will give a brief non-technical introduction to some basic principles of statistical inference, and the main ideas of survival analysis in order to tell my story.