Neuroepidemiology: Course and determinants of normal, successful and pathological cognitive ageing

PIs:                              
Dr. M. van Boxtel
Dr. S. Köhler

Research Staff:
Prof. F. Verhey
Prof. W. Backes
Prof. R. van Oostenbrugge
Dr. P. Hofman
Dr. J. Jansen

Postdocs:
Dr. K. Deckers

PhD-students:
L. Berk   
A. Geraets
I. Verheggen
M.Wong
W. van Zwam

Focus of research: 
Our aim is to create insight into the prevention, aetiology and treatment of cognitive dysfunction by conducting observational, interventional and implementation research in the general adult population.

Research line staff members are active contributors to De Maastricht Studie (DMS), a study to provide more insight into the prevention, aetiology and treatment of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases in relation to mental health. DMS is a good example of the integrative approach that we aim for, with multidisciplinary input from the Departments of Psychiatry & Neuropsychology, Neurology, Neuroradiology, and Neuro-ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. Participation in DMS so far has resulted in PhD theses of F. van Dooren (diabetes and depression, in collaboration with Tilburg University), P. Spauwen (cognition in diabetes) and F. van Bussel (multi-parametric imaging of cerebral biomarkers of cognitive deterioration). Current projects focus on the relation between depression, cerebrovascular disease and cognition (A. Geraets) as well as lifestyle in relation to brain health.

The Maastricht Ageing Study (MAAS) is a 12-year observational cohort study with repeated assessments of health, lifestyle, cognitive functions and incident dementia spanning the whole adult age range. It continues to be a major source for new studies into determinants and course of cognitive ageing, including studies on positive affect, hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular disease. MAAS has been added to the ‘Cohort Studies of Memory in an International Consortium (COSMIC)’ harmonisation project, allowing high- powered analyses of population-based studies into cognitive ageing. A new MRI-substudy was launched to examine the role of blood-brain barrier function in successful cognitive aging (I. Verheggen).

The FP7 funded 3-year study into preventive strategies to ameliorate the individual dementia risk in middle- aged individuals (In-MINDD) has produced an evidence-based and well-validated polyenvironmental risk score to estimate individual potential for dementia risk reduction: the ‘Lifestyle for Brain Health (LIBRA)’ index. This product was implemented in an ongoing multicenter European intervention study in general practice aimed to reduce the dementia risk in middle-aged individuals. Preliminary results have shown that the product is feasible and offers opportunities to be implemented fur use in the general population. Implementation of In-MINDD findings is currently ongoing through funding from the Province of Limburg in the ‘MijnBreincoach’ project. The aim is create awareness for factors that influence brain health by a dedicated campaign in Limburg and use of e-Health technology to help people in making and maintaining healthy lifestyle choices.

The results of the NWO/FES program ‘Healthy Cognitive Ageing’ aimed at the development of internet-based low-level intervention strategies to support the cognitive ageing process in middle-aged and older adults have been implemented as e-Health module ‘Keep your brain fit!’, which has been made available for the general public. Other products of this National collaboration with the universities of Amsterdam (VUmc, UvA) and Nijmegen (RUMC) are available at the consortium portal ‘BreinWeb.nl’.

New ongoing avenues explore the role of mindfulness in cognitive ageing and incident cognitive complaints, both in observational and in intervention studies (L Berk).

Finally, members of the Neuroepidemiology group provide methodological support for different projects within MHeNs and MUMC+.