A typical pattern of cognitive decline occurs in healthy aging. Promising methods to counteract this process are physical and cognitive training. Being physically active has been associated with reduced brain tissue loss and reduced risk for cognitive impairment in aging humans. Furthermore, even in old age, significant increases in cognitive performance of trained tasks are possible. Yet, the main challenge for elderly lies in successfully transferring the improved cognitive skill to different surroundings (i.e., transfer of training gains). The ability to do so decreases markedly with increasing age, but is important in order to deal with daily life activities. Moreover, the mechanisms of either maintenance or age-related decrease of transfer of cognitive training gains in healthy elderly are largely unknown. Therefore, the primary goal of the AgeGain project is to investigate the neurobiological mechanisms of transfer of cognitive training gains in healthy elderly. The secondary goal is to determine if physical and cognitive training are able to positively influence this transfer of cognitive training gains in order to develop more effective training methods.
The research team at the German Sport University in Cologne will study and train around 100 elderly. Participants receive a 5-month physical training and a 4-week cognitive training. In addition, a repeated comprehensive neuropsychological examination will be conducted and multimodal neuroimaging of the brain will be performed using magnetic resonance tomography (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). In order to determine genetic factors, blood samples will be collected.
The study started in June 2016 and has a term of three years. The AgeGain-team is still looking for German-speaking subjects over 60 years old without any psychological, neurological or cardiovascular disease.
This project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (project number: 01GQ1425A).