The body-mind connection: exploring the biological mechanisms underlying the effects of somatic health on brain aging

PI: Laura Fratiglioni,

This multidisciplinary research program seeks to identify strategies and treatments to better and more effectively reduce poor health in older adults. It uses information from three large studies plus biological and neuroimaging data to focus on the biological mechanisms (factors and processes) that lie behind cognitive (mental) aging and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The mind perspective is explored by examining cognitive decline in non-pathological aging, cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease, and the body perspective by studying cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders, multi-morbidity (two or more concurrent diseases), polypharmacy  (use of multiple drugs), functional impairment, and disability.

The program consists of seven projects that have four major aims. First, we will verify whether mental and body-related disorders share not only the same individual (life habits, attitude, and personality) and contextual (social and physical environment) factors but also same biological mechanisms. Second, we will explore the most important biological pathways that mediate the associations between somatic (bodily) disorders and cognitive deficits and dementia. Third, we will examine the positive and negative roles of drug use and polypharmacy in somatic and mental health. Fourth, we will quantify the impact of cognitive decline and dementia on physical functioning and disability.

The project, funded by the a grant from the Swedish Research Council, is carried out by a group of experts from four centers at Karolinska Institutet, the Karolinska University Hospital, and Perugia University in Italy.