Two out of four grants awarded to Karolinska Institutet from the Swedish Research Council within the area of Humanities and Social Sciences 2019 were received by ARC researchers Goran Papenberg and Carin Lennartsson.

Goran Papenberg receives a grant of 5.800.000 SEK from The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) for the project “Mechanisms of Cognitive Aging: The Roles of Brain Iron Accumulation and Neuroinflammation” for a four-year period (2020-2023).

About the project: Age-related cognitive impairments compromise the functional capacity of aging individuals, and create major individual and societal costs. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms underlying cognitive aging is of great importance. Increasing evidence suggests that metabolically active iron particles increase in the aging brain, disrupting optimal neural functioning. At the same time, human aging is characterized by chronic, low-grade inflammation, with negative consequences on cognition. Based on initial evidence, we hypothesize that an overload of iron is deleterious, as it may induce chronic inflammation. We also address the alternative hypothesis that high systemic inflammation precedes and predicts iron accumulation across three years. Moreover, neuroinflammation may be independent of iron, but still contribute to cognitive performance. The latter scenario may be particularly true for brain regions with low iron accumulation.

The overarching goal of this research project is to determine the role of iron accumulation in the aging brain as a mechanism underlying neuroinflammation and concomitant impairments in cognitive as well as motor functions. Without a mechanistic understanding, intervention efforts to delay cognitive decline are likely to fail, because they may not focus on the causal factors. Overall, our findings will contribute to a better understanding of individual cognitive and brain aging trajectories.

Photo: Stefan Zimmerman

Carin Lennartsson receives a grant of 4.200.000 SEK from the Swedish research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) for the project “Cash and care. Intergenerational transfers in the families of the oldest-old and their consequences for inequality” for a three-year period (2020-2022).

About the project: The downsizing of institutional care has placed more responsibility for eldercare on families. Families redistribute resources through intergenerational transfers of cash and care over the life-course, making past transfers important to consider. These transfers may contribute to gender and socioeconomic inequalities, as families often allocate care duties to women and have varying amounts of resources available for providing transfers. Also, in recent years, relative poverty has increased among older adults in Sweden.

The aim is to study how inequalities are shaped and responded to by families through transfers of cash and care between older adults and their adult children. We will use long-term longitudinal and cross-cohort data to answer the following questions:

Understanding the family’s role as a provider of cash and care and the transmission of gender and socioeconomic inequalities across generations is crucial in policy planning, with impacts on both older adults and younger generations.