Ongoing research in the Cognitive Ageing project

A selection of projects we are currently working on

  • Examining the role of inequality of educational opportunity at time of schooling for cognitive performance and cognitive decline at older ages
  • Understanding the role of neighborhood concentrated disadvantage in cognitive decline, and the mediating pathways (lead: Jason Settels)
  • Understanding how to best assess the effect of behavior changes on risk of dementia in observational studies
  • Systematic reviews on prevalence of cognitive impairment and dementia in Latin America and the Caribbeans (lead: Fabiana Ribeiro)
  • The role of partnership transitions in maintaining cognitive functioning in comparative perspective (lead: Ariane Bertogg)
  • Dementia risk prediction with a focus on modifiable social and behavioural risk factors with statistical learning methods

Please get in touch for more information.

Examining gender differentials in the association of low control work with cognitive performance in older workers

Ford, Katherine, Batty, G. David, and Leist, Anja
European Journal of Public Health, ckaa173,

Katherine Ford, MPH, is a doctoral student in Social Sciences, in the Doctoral Training Unit on Migration, Inequalities, and Labour Markets (MINLAB) at the University of Luxembourg.

We looked into perceived control at work, an important psychosocial work characteristic, and the extent to which changes in control at work influence performance on cognitive tests in older workers. High perceived control was associated with higher performance in verbal fluency.

We didn’t find solid sex/gender differences in how control relates to cognition. However, there are several differences between the genders in the context of control at work: Women and men of the cohorts under investigation had had different work trajectories, different career opportunities, and may have retired early for different reasons. Perceived (and actual) control at work is also different for men and women even in the same occupation. All these are potential sources of bias, which could have masked the findings.


Our poster on prevalence of cognitive impairment in Sao Paolo, Brazil, 2000-2015, at the AAIC, July 2020

Ribeiro, Fabiana, Duarte, Yeda, Santos, Jair, and Leist, Anja
Poster presentation (2020, July 30)


Our poster on physical activity changes and risk of cognitive decline and dementia at the AAIC, July 2020

Leist, Anja, Muniz-Terrera, Graciela, and Solomon, Alina
Poster presentation (2020, July 30)

Leist Research Group Manual

Leist, Anja
Manual (2019, December 12)

The manual should give team members all necessary information to carry out our day-to-day work and intends to put down in words our work and research principles. It refers to policies at our institution and global movements such as #OpenScience where applicable. The manual has been set up concurrently with the research group Anja has established after receiving an ERC Starting Grant for the CRISP project (no. 803239). The manual is partly a reflection of the highest research standards expected by the European Research Council, partly laying out the particular conditions at the University of Luxembourg, and a reflection of Anja’s vision of a healthy research environment. The manual is inspired by Mariam Aly’s lab manual.

Please get in touch for a copy.

Gender inequalities across the life course: A societal perspective on gender differences in dementia

Leist, Anja; Ford, Katherine
Presentation at Alzheimer Europe conference (2019, October 25)

Women are at increased risk of developing dementia, which can only partly be explained with differences in longevity, sex biology, or differences in detection/diagnosis. A promising approach at the population level is the systematic investigation of life course conditions for men and women across countries and cohorts in order to detect if schooling or work opportunities differ by gender. In the cognitive reserve framework, education and work reflect opportunities for cognitively stimulating activities, which increase cognitive reserve across the life course, and which could delay cognitive decline and the diagnosis of dementia. We develop a framework for systematizing gender inequalities across different life stages and life domains, with a focus on systematic disadvantages for women that could be relevant barriers to cognitive reserve development. The new framework leads to testable hypotheses in both the Western and global context regarding life-course socialization and schooling and work opportunities that have been different for men and women. We need to better understand how different life-course opportunities for men and women can create gender differences in dementia at old ages in order to identify individuals at risk today and improve conditions for future generations.

WYLD Special Symposium: Technological Innovations in Dementia Diagnosis and Care

Leist, Anja
Symposium (2019, October 24)
Speakers: Ríona McArdle, Newcastle University; Haza Newman, GerasSolutions Stockholm; Claire Lancaster, University of Oxford; Silka Dawn Freiesleben, Charité Berlin; Katarzyna Hess-Wiktor, Minnity Stockholm

Researchers and entrepreneurs present technological innovations in dementia diagnosis and care, particularly through the use of wearables, apps, and novel data analysis techniques. These innovations address complex challenges of differential dementia diagnosis and ensuring high-quality and safe home and formal care.

Dementia Research Forum Demenzforschungstage – Journées de recherche sur la démence 2019

Leist, Anja
Report on the “Dementia Research Forum” 2019. Involvement of persons living with dementia and their caregivers in research on cognitive ageing and dementia

available in French, German and English

On 19 and 20 September 2019, the first “Dementia Research Forum” took place at the Belval campus of the University of Luxembourg. People living with dementia, close relatives of persons living with dementia and professionals in the healthcare sector were invited to the university to discuss the research questions of the ERC-CRISP project and to advise the researchers on the research and dissemination of the research results. The idea of giving people affected by dementia a voice in research projects is already being successfully implemented in other countries such as the UK. The report presents some information on the research project for the general public and summarises the contributions of the participants.

The long-lasting impact of inequality of educational opportunities on later-life cognitive functioning

Leist, Anja; Bar-Haim, Eyal; Chauvel, Louis
Presentation (2019, September 14)

Social and behavioral factors in cognitive aging: Applying the causal inference framework in observational studies

Leist, Anja
Presentation (2019, May 25)

There is an urgent need to better understand how to maintain cognitive functioning at older ages with lifestyle interventions, given that there is currently no medical cure available to prevent, halt or reverse the progression of cognitive decline and dementia. However, in current models, it is still not well established which social and behavioral modifiable factors (e.g. education, BMI, physical activity, sleep, depression) matter most at which ages, and which behavioral profiles are most protective against cognitive decline. In the last years, advances in the fields of causal inference have equipped epidemiology and social sciences with methods and models to approach causal questions in observational studies. The presentation will give an overview of the causal inference framework to investigate the value of behavior changes in cognitive aging. Motivated by conflicting recent publications if physical activity should or should not be recommended to reduce individual risk of cognitive decline, we emulate a target trial where sedentary people are followed over the course of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and compare their cognitive development depending on initiating or not physical activity at a later measurement. Extended inclusion/exclusion criteria, and concepts of incident versus prevalent users and multiple eligibility are introduced. The causal inference framework applied to observational studies is able to guide study design to reconcile conflicting evidence from intervention and observational studies. Investigations under the new framework have fewer ethical considerations compared to intervention research and, considering the need to follow up individuals over several decades, are considerably more cost-effective. Limitations are discussed.

Symposium: Early detection and prevention of cognitive decline and dementia: Findings from major European collaborative and research initiatives

Leist, Anja
Symposium (2019, May 25)
Speakers: Craig Ritchie, University of Edinburgh; Alina Solomon, University of Eastern Finland; Graciela Muniz-Terrera, University of Edinburgh; Tom Russ, University of Edinburgh

With still no medical cure for dementia available, major research initiatives have been set up to investigate and target the development of dementia at earlier stages. Several ongoing projects focus on early detection of dementia with the hope to be able to administer personalized interventions for individuals at high risk. Ongoing clinical trials test different interventions on their potential to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Complementing those efforts, large and long-spanning observational studies can be used to detect long-term precursors of cognitive aging. Indeed, there is increasing evidence for a large window of opportunity for intervention of several decades that could be used for preventative efforts in dementia. The symposium will bring together major European collaborative and research initiatives in the field of early detection and prevention of dementia. The first part of the symposium will present findings from clinical trials, the second part new findings coming from a range of observational studies. The first paper will report on the design and study cohorts of the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Consortium (EPAD) and the TriBEKa project. The second paper will focus on new multifactorial models to quantify prevention potential based on the FINGER trial. The third paper will report an integrated analysis of four longitudinal studies of ageing (OCT0, H70, LASA, and MAP) to evaluate the role of cognitively stimulating activities in the transitions from cognitively normal to slightly impaired, severely impaired, and death with multi-state models. The fourth paper will present the contribution of environmental factors over the life course, in particular air pollution, on cognitive change in the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1936. The last paper makes use of recent developments in approaching causal inference in observational studies and applies these to predict cognitive aging and dementia with data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe.

New ERC Project on Cognitive Aging

Leist, Anja
Blog post (2018, July 27)

An overview of the objectives of the ERC-CRISP project for a general public.

On my personal website, you can also find information on earlier outreach activities such as a dementia conference and fundraiser, and dementia awareness workshops.