Mapping and intervening with the behavioral factors influencing cognitive aging

PI: Martin Lövdén

Age-related impairments in cognition (memory, learning, concentration, and decision-making) come with large individual and societal costs. It is therefore important to understand the factors that promote successful aging and develop ways to preserve cognition in old age. Pharmaceutical approaches to prevention and treatment have been disappointing. Promoting behavioral factors that protect people from age-related cognitive impairments is a more promising route. Such factors may include education, stimulating work conditions, intellectual and physical activities, and social interaction.

The main objectives of the research program are to chart the behavioral factors that influence cognitive decline in aging and develop interventions that target these factors. To achieve these objectives, we will carry out three projects. The first uses data from the large, long-term, Swedish National study of Aging and Care in Kungsholmen to map the psychosocial factors associated with cognitive aging and dementia. Factors to be examined include social network, leisure activities, physical exercise, and depression. The second tests whether education affects intelligence, late-life disease, dementia, and mortality. It uses information from the Swedish comprehensive school reform that was initiated in 1949 and rolled out across the country over more than ten years. The third investigates whether education in the form of learning a foreign language affects cognitive performance in old age and whether it can counteract the negative effects of retirement on cognition.

The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (Forte).