Programme Grant Ageing and health: Mapping and intervening with the behavioral factors influencing cognitive aging
Forte, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Alzheimer's disease & other dementias
Cognitive impairments in old age come with large individual and societal costs. It is therefore of great importance to understand the factors promoting successful aging and to develop means for preserving cognitive functioning in old age. Pharmaceutical approaches to prevention and treatment have been disappointing. Promoting behavioral factors that protect against age-associated cognitive impairment is a more promising route. Such factors may include education, stimulating work conditions, intellectual and physical activities, and participation in social interactions. The main objectives of this research program are to chart the behavioral factors influencing cognitive decline in aging and to develop interventions that target these factors. In a first project, we propose to use data from a large population-based longitudinal study, the Swedish National study of Aging and Care in Kungsholmen, to map the psychosocial factors associated cognitive aging and dementia. In a second project, we propose to utilize the Swedish comprehensive school reform, initiated in 1949 and rolled out across the country over more than ten years in a way similar to a quasi-experiment, as a way to test for whether education has causal effects on intelligence, late-life disease, dementia, and mortality. In a third project, we propose investigate whether education in the form of foreign language acquisition affects cognitive performance in old age and whether it can ameliorate negative effects of retirement on cognition. Finally, in a fourth project, we will investigate means to enhance the effects of cognitive training on performance in old age. Taken together, the results will improve the understanding of individual differences in cognitive aging, inform public health policy of the behavioral factors that contribute to successful cognitive aging, and pave the way for ameliorating and delaying age-associated cognitive impairments.