News & Events
29 March 2023
Presentation in the UniTalk series
Anja recently gave a talk in the UniTalk series ‘Women in Science’. The presentation covered the following topics:
- What are modifiable risk factors for cognitive aging and dementia;
- How can we reduce risk of dementia by adopting healthy lifestyle behaviours;
- How social determinants of health, such as socioeconomic conditions as well as sex/gender, interact with these modifiable risk factors.
You can find the slides here.
15 March 2023
The BRAINHEALTH-POLICY Workshop
We were very happy to host the BRAINHEALTH-POLICY workshop funded by the Institute for Advanced Studies on March 2 and 3, 2023 in Belval. After inspiring discussions, we are now writing up our ideas on how policymaking can support brain health across the life course. More to come!
6 March 2023
Socioeconomics, genetic risk, and incident dementia
Our study on area-level and individual-level socioeconomic deprivation, genetic risk for developing dementia, and incident dementia in the UK Biobank is now published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2023.01.012
See the press release of the University of Luxembourg here. Congratulations to first author Matthias Klee who is a doctoral researcher in the CRISP project.
1 March 2023
Upcoming BRAINHEALTH-POLICY Workshop
We are looking forward to hosting a BRAINSTORM workshop by the University of Luxembourg’s Institute for Advanced Studies! Please find more information about the upcoming workshop below. Co-PIs Profs. Anja Leist and Skerdi Zanaj, and Dr. Ariane Bertogg organize the workshop.
On the picture, from the left: Anouk Geraets, Ana Carolina Teixeira Santos, Matthias Klee, Jung Hyun Kim, Anja Leist, Fabiana Ribeiro, Melissa Chan, Jure Mur.
Background. Policymakers increasingly recognize the importance of brain health, broadly defined as ‘preservation of optimal brain integrity and mental and cognitive function at a given age in the absence of overt brain diseases that affect normal brain function’ (Wang et al., 2020) for the capacity of societies’ functioning: (1) Individuals have to manage and navigate increasingly complex and digital environments in private life, political participation, and professional careers; (2) It is vital to delay later-life cognitive impairment, as it is a heavy burden for affected individuals and their families, as well as costly for welfare states and healthcare systems. Concurrently, population health research on risk factors for dementia and cognitive decline has identified a number of individual-level lifestyle and health behaviours, as well as contextual – i.e., policy-driven – determinants (related to human development, economic conditions, or educational opportunities) influencing brain health in the short, medium, and long run.
Research objectives and methods. We aim to convene a workshop to: (1) Build a conceptual framework and systematise hypothesised policy impacts on the under-researched links between policymaking and brain health, including a life-course and equity perspective; (2) Taking stock of the evidence with regard to relevant policy levels (regional, national, supranational) and policy fields – related to education, public health, work, retirement, possibly also migration, youth, environmental policies – and possible interdependencies that could, through different pathways, influence brain health; and (3) Set up a future research agenda to develop the (under-researched) evidence with regard to methods, relevant actual and future datasets, and specific areas of interest, e.g., equity, life course. These objectives will be achieved through preparation of the workshop via a concept note, moderated discussions and break-out groups, and post-workshop writing up of a framework paper on policy impacts on brain health.
Proposed outcomes. This interdisciplinary workshop, convening renowned and next-generation research leaders in population brain health, policy, neurology, life course, and gender, will open up new research avenues at the frontiers of knowledge to achieve research excellence through (1) advancing state of the art in brain health research and (2) educating the next generation of researchers.
15 February 2023
New project affiliated with ERC CRISP
We are happy to welcome Ms. Melissa Chan to the IRSEI institute!
Melissa joined us in February 2023. She will work with Prof. Anja Leist on raising awareness on the importance of brain health at the workplace. Melissa’s work focuses on equity in brain health and she works collaboratively with tri-sector partners (business, government and nonprofits) in health and social care to lead service design, innovation, and growth projects. She has led multiple initiatives in Singapore related to care and support delivery for dementia, including a national platform to facilitate the safe return of people living with dementia. She recently completed her fellowship with the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), Trinity College Dublin, in September 2022.
15 February 2023
New visiting researcher
Jure Mur is a visiting researcher from the University of Edinburgh from February until June 2023. He is interested in environmental factors throughout the life course that affect healthy ageing or the risk of disease in older age. He completed his PhD in translational neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. You can find more about his career and publications here. Welcome Jure to the group!
22 December 2022
Congratulations to the awardees of the Excellent Thesis Award of the University of Luxembourg!
We are very happy that Dr Katherine Ford and Dr Ivana Paccoud have both won the Excellent Thesis Award 2022 of the University of Luxembourg! Both researchers were affiliated with Anja’s lab and graduated in May and June, respectively.
Dr Katherine Ford’s thesis is entitled ‘Educational and Occupational Differentials in Cognition: Examining the Role of Gender using Population-Based Studies’ (here). She is now postdoctoral researcher at Carleton University, Canada.
Dr Ivana Paccoud’s thesis is entitled ‘Is universal healthcare truly universal? Socioeconomic and migrant inequalities in healthcare’ (here). She is now postdoctoral researcher at the Luxembourg Institute of Health.
Congratulations to all awardees!
26 August 2022
Our research on cognitive ageing with Latin American data presented at the AAIC
Fabiana Ribeiro, postdoctoral researcher in the CRISP project, led two studies that we presented at the AAIC:
- Risk and protective factors for cognitive decline in lower educated older adults with 15-year follow-up Fabiana Silva Ribeiro, PhD, Anja K. Leist, PhD
- Why should we discuss gender inequalities in Latin America and their effects in later life? Fabiana Silva Ribeiro, PhD, Anja K. Leist, PhD
2 August 2022
Our paper on 'Socioeconomic deprivation, genetic risk and risk of dementia' was featured at the largest global dementia conference AAIC in San Diego, CA, in August 2022
Matthias Klee, first author of the study currently under review, is a doctoral researcher in Psychology working in the CRISP project at the University of Luxembourg.
People who experience high socioeconomic deprivation are significantly more likely to develop dementia compared to people of better socioeconomic status, according to our research.
Our largescale study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in San Diego examined data from data from 196,368 participants’ records in UK Biobank whose genetic risk for developing dementia was assessed.
We investigated the contribution of individual socioeconomic deprivation, such as low income and low wealth. We also looked at area-level socioeconomic deprivation, including rates of employment status, and rates of people who owned a car or home. We calculated risk of developing dementia, and compared these with genetic risk for dementia.
We found that deprivation, both linked to socioeconomic conditions of households and at area level, contributed to risk of dementia. The increased risk was particularly associated with people living in very disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
For participants with moderate or high genetic risk, living in a very deprived area is associated with even higher risk for developing dementia, even after adjusting for socioeconomic conditions in individual households.
Some participants had brain imaging data available. This indicated that socioeconomic deprivation both on the individual and the area level were linked to more damage to nerve fibres called white-matter, which enables communication between different areas of the brain.
Dt David Llewellyn, of the University of Exeter, said: “We have already established that people living in poverty and in deprived areas are more likely to develop dementia. Our new findings clarify the relationship between these environmental risk factors and people’s genetic makeup. Most cases of dementia are not inevitable, and we should be optimistic about the possibility of delaying or even preventing dementia altogether.”
“Our findings point to the importance of the conditions in which people live, work and age for their risk of developing dementia, particularly those who are already genetically more vulnerable,” said Matthias Klee, doctoral student at the University of Luxembourg and lead author of the study.
“Both individual health behaviors and non-influenceable living conditions are relevant to explain risk of dementia, regardless of genetic vulnerability. This knowledge opens new opportunities to reduce the number of people affected by dementia not only through public health interventions but also by improving socioeconomic conditions through policymaking.”
See the full press release by AAIC here. You can find more information about this study here.
10 June 2022
Our symposium at the Nordic Congress of Gerontology, Odense
So great we had the chance to meet with colleagues at the NKG in Odense, Denmark! The CRISP team presented in the symposium ‘Contextual and social determinants of cognitive ageing and dementia‘. Dr Nika Seblova from Columbia University joined us:
- Experiences of everyday discrimination and memory in ethnically/racially diverse middle-age Americans Dominika Seblova, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
- Does (re-)entering the labor market at advanced ages protect against cognitive decline? Jung Hyun Kim, University of Luxembourg
- Country-level variation in dementia prevalence in Europe: A comparison of World Alzheimer Report and SHARE data Matthias Klee, University of Luxembourg
- Why should we discuss gender inequalities in Latin America and their effects in later life? Fabiana Silva Ribeiro, PhD, University of Luxembourg
16 May 2022
Institute for Advanced Studies grant MCI-BIOME
Our project ‘The relationship between socioeconomic status and the gut microbiome in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as a risk for dementia’ (MCI-BIOME) received 400,000 EUR.
- The project is co-directed by Prof. Paul Wilmes, Rejko Krüger, and Anja Leist, and funded by the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) of the University of Luxembourg, running for four years
- You can find more about our project here
- The IAS held an interdisciplinary event in November 2021, and videos have just been released. You can find all videos here, and Anja’s interview here
12 May 2022
News in spring 2022...
We are hiring! Job announcement for a postdoc position in the CRISP project on Modifiable risk factors and inequalities in cognitive ageing. Follow the link or go to the Jobs page of the University of Luxembourg.
Several PhD candidates in the Social Sciences will finalise their projects in spring 2022 and we have been proud to support and mentor them.
New projects are being developed in the area of brain health. Not only have we joined renowned consortia to develop new ideas on dementia prevention, but we are currently also exploring pathways to support promotion of brain health at the workplace, with our fantastic collaborator and friend Melissa Chan. Please get in touch for more information!
22 April 2022
PhD defenses in spring 2022
We are excited about two PhD candidates affiliated with CRISP defending their theses in spring 2022!
- Katherine Ford will present and defend her thesis ‘Educational and occupational differentials in cognition: Examining the role of gender using population-based studies‘ on 19th of May 2022. External experts will be Prof. Graciela Muniz-Terrera (U Edinburgh) and Prof. David Batty (UCL London). Kate is currently on a research stay at U Ottawa with Dr Annie Robitaille
- Ivana Paccoud will present and defend her thesis ‘Is universal healthcare truly universal? Socioeconomic and migrant inequalities in healthcare‘ on 3rd of June 2022. External experts will be Prof. James Nazroo (U Manchester) and Prof. Thomas Abel (U Bern).
22 April 2022
Conferences in spring and summer 2022
- At the RC28 spring meeting in London: Dr Ariane Bertogg will present our paper ‘Gendered Life Courses and Cognitive Functioning in Later Life: The Role of Gender Norms and Employment Biographies‘ in April 2022
- At the University of Basel: The Institute for Biomedical Ethics has invited Anja to give a talk on ‘Machine learning in Public Health: Relevant applications for ageing populations‘ end of April 2022. You can find her slides here, and the slides from her talk in November 2021 here.
- At the Nordic Congress of Gerontology 26NKG in Odense, Denmark: Anja will chair a symposium on ‘Contextual and social determinants of cognitive ageing and dementia‘ in June 2022, with Jung Hyun Kim, Dr Fabiana Ribeiro and Matthias Klee all participating and presenting their research. Dr Dominika Seblova, Columbia University, and Prof. Graciela Muniz-Terrera, University of Edinburgh, will also participate in the symposium. Dr Ana Carolina Teixeira Santos will present a poster on ‘Systematic-review on the effects of mindfulness-based interventions in cognitive measures in on older adults‘
- At AAIC in San Diego: Jung Hyun Kim, Matthias Klee and Dr Fabiana Ribeiro will present CRISP research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego
- At the European Health Economics (EUHEA) Conference in Oslo, Norway in July 2022, where Jung Hyun Kim will present her paper 1, co-authored with Anja and Prof. Graciela Muniz-Terrera – congratulations!
- Dr Jason Settels, as lead author, and Anja have co-authored a paper on inequalities in missed healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, which has just been accepted at the Journal of Aging & Health. Jason has also been accepted to present the paper at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in August 2022, congratulations!
Anja also participated in the World Dementia Council Summit in London on 28 March 2022 and will give a talk at the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity College Dublin in July 2022.
28 July 2021
5 July 2021
1 July 2021
2 July 2021
More news in summer 2021
Research Group Manual
- Anja has written a research group manual on the expectations in her research group on the team members and herself, the #OpenScience and other policies to adhere to, including co-authorship guidelines and training resources. With thanks to Mariam Aly, whose lab manual served as inspiration. It is regularly updated by the research group – and seems to fill a gap perceived by many PIs! Please get in touch if you would like to use the manual as a template for your own research group manual.
See the publications page for more information on
- A new preprint, a mapping of common research questions in the social and health sciences to #MachineLearning approaches: http://arxiv.org/abs/2106.10716
- Our study on inequality of educational opportunity at time of schooling and later-life cognitive functioning in Social Science & Medicine – Population Health: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100837
- Before the CRISP project, Anja served as country expert on health politics in Luxembourg in the Norface HealthDOX project. Anja’s chapter on Health politics in Luxembourg in Ellen Immergut et al.’s Health Politics in Europe Handbook is now published.
- Non-CRISP research related to COVID-19: Our work on the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in a population-representative sample of Luxembourg is in press at Psychiatry Research – full-text link to follow soon! Our paper on anxiety and depression in a Brazilian sample has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health here.
We will be present at the 2021 AAIC (Denver, CO, and virtual) end of July 2021:
- Matthias Klee will present a poster on ‘Investigating the associations of trajectories of depressive symptoms and self-perceived health and incident dementia – an unsupervised machine learning approach’
- Fabiana Ribeiro will present a poster on ‘Prevalence of dementia among elderly in Latin America and the Caribbean: a systematic review and meta-analysis’
We will be presenting our research at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (Phoenix, AZ, and virtual) in November 2021:
- Fabiana Ribeiro will present the paper ‘Prevalence of dementia among elderly in Latin America and the Caribbean: a systematic review and meta-analysis’
- Katherine Ford will present the paper ‘Education, occupation, and the cognitive performance distribution of South Korean older adults’
- Matthias Klee will present the paper ‘Investigating sequential and simultaneous changes in trajectories of cognitive decline and depressive symptoms’
- Jung Hyun Kim will present the paper ‘Temporal trends in the prevalence of dementia in South Korea’
We have also applied to present research of the group at the 2021 Alzheimer Europe conference (virtual) end of November 2021.
News in the CRISP project
- In February, Ms Jung Hyun Kim joined the CRISP team. Jung Hyun will work with datasets from aging surveys in South Korea, the UK, and other countries, to understand how life changes (in behavior, health, the transition to retirement etc.) will affect the course of cognitive ageing. Welcome Jung Hyun!
- Anja will chair a symposium at the Nordic Congress of Gerontology (NKG 25) entitled ‘Contextual and Life-course Determinants of Later-life Cognitive Functioning and Dementia’. Co-chair is Graciela Muniz-Terrera from the University of Edinburgh. Speakers are Graciela Muniz-Terrera, Anja Leist, Dominika (Nika) Seblova, Pavla Cermakova, and Tom Russ.
- Anja will present a paper jointly written with Eyal Bar-Haim and Louis Chauvel on ‘Inequality of educational opportunity at time of schooling predicts cognitive functioning in later adulthood’ at the Population Association of America Meeting in May, and at the Nordic Congress of Gerontology and the RC28 Spring Meeting in June (all virtual).
- Matthias Klee, doctoral student in the CRISP team, has been accepted to present his findings ‘Investigating the associations of trajectories of depressive symptoms and self-perceived health and incident dementia – an unsupervised machine learning approach’ at the Alzheimer Association International Conference (AAIC), in July 2021. Congratulations Matthias!
- Katherine Ford, doctoral student of Anja, has published her second paper for the PhD thesis in Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine, entitled ‘Returns to Educational and Occupational Attainment in Cognitive Performance for Middle-Aged South Korean Men and Women’. Congratulations Kate!
- Anja will teach in two summer schools of the Venice International University doctoral programme (here and here). Please get in touch for more information on the lectures:
- Inequalities in and epidemiology of ageing
- Inequalities in health and well-being at older ages
- The vulnerability dilemma: Consequences of the pandemic and pandemic control measures on older people
22 February 2021
Older people during the COVID-19 pandemic
Anja was recently interviewed on the situation on nursing homes during the pandemic.
People in need of care are already particularly vulnerable due to their functional limitations – all the more so in a pandemic, where social distancing measures pose major threats to cognitive abilities. Expert working groups are needed to find the right balance between the pandemic restrictions and ensuring human rights of older nursing home residents.
See the interview in German language here.
Research in the CRISP project
The National Research Fund Luxembourg (FNR) has published an overview of my research in a series on ERC grant holders in Luxembourg. The text is based on the research during the first year of the CRISP project.
You can find the overview in German language, published in the Luxemburger Wort in March 2021, here.
Infographic (c) Ikonaut.
Some related events and resources
During summer and fall 2020, we had several projects and events closely related to the work on the CRISP project. Click on the links for further information.
- Radio 100komma7 hosted a discussion on vulnerability of older adults, particularly those living with dementia and living in care homes. It was aired on 28th of November. Anja commented on the current situation in LU from a psychological perspective. Find a summary of the discussion (EN) and a link to the podcast (LU/DE) here.
- The H2020 funded SAPHIRe project hosted a workshop on the access to health data (29 October 2020). Find Anja’s recording on the patients’ perspective here.
- Anja teaches in the Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences on the topics Health Inequalities, Epidemiology of Ageing, Cognitive Ageing and Dementia, Inequalities in Ageing, and Vulnerability in a Pandemic. Find the slides and recordings here.
- Anja is member of the executive committee of the CON-VINCE study in Luxembourg. Find an interview on her research on the psychological impact of the confinement measures in older adults during spring 2020 here.
Past and upcoming conferences
We have presented two ongoing paper projects at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) (held virtually) on 27-31 July 2020, Using cohort data to emulate lifestyle interventions: Long-term beneficial effects of initiating physical activity on cognitive decline and dementia (Anja Leist, Graciela Muniz-Terrera, and Alina Solomon), and Prevalence of memory impairment in Sao Paolo, Brazil, 2000-2015 (Fabiana Ribeiro, Yeda Aparecida de Oliveira Duarte, Jair Lício Ferreira Santos, and Anja Leist).
Ariane Bertogg presented our paper Partnership Transitions and Cognitive Functioning among the European 50+ at the 18th Meeting of the European Network for the Sociological and Demographic Study of Divorce (held virtually), 14-16 October 2020, and will present this paper also at the International Sociological Association’s RC28 Spring Meeting in Turku (postponed to June 2-4, 2021).
We were at the GSA Annual Meeting (held virtually), 4-6 November 2020:
- Jason Settels presented our paper Changes in Neighborhood-Level Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Older Americans’ Cognitive Functioning
- Fabiana Ribeiro presented our late-breaker poster on the Prevalence of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Latin America and the Caribbean: A systematic review
- Anja Leist discussed our late-breaker poster on the Mental health impact of the confinement measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in Luxembourg (CON-VINCE study; poster co-authored with Claire Pauly, Valerie Schröder, Laure Pauly and Rejko Krüger)
We have been accepted to present at the Population Association of America Meeting in May 2021, and are planning to attend the NKG21, the GSA Annual Meeting 2021, and others.
In the Press
Revue, 4 March 2020
Of astronauts and make-up (Von Astronauten and Make-up)
The Revue cover story is written in German language.
Anja Leist talks about the gender bias in academia, and how educational and gender inequalities are connected to dementia. The CRISP team investigates these and other risk factors of dementia.
Gender equality can contribute to explaining gender differences in cognitive ageing, because women who received equal opportunities as men in their working life and in education perform better on cognitive tests.
The CRISP team further compares the educational systems of different countries. Years of education and quality of education both play important roles for cognitive performance. The more education and thus, cognitive stimulation, children and adolescents receive, the higher the potential to build up cognitive reserve, which can delay the development of dementia. The CRISP team compared different European countries at different points in time. Equality of educational opportunity, the extent to which children from more and less advantaged parental backgrounds receive schooling that is matched to their abilities, was positively linked to cognitive performance at older ages.
Anja also gives some background on dementia. It is a disease that is common around the world, and with population ageing, more and more people will be affected. In the absence of a cure, we need to prevent the development of dementia. The FINGER-trial gives first promising results (published by Ngandu, Kivipelto and others in Lancet in 2015). With a mix of intensive coaching (diet, cognitive training, and sport), cognitive decline was slowed down over two years. The CRISP project contributes to understanding better which lifestyle changes help most to reduce dementia risk.
Télécran, 12 October 2019
Dementia (Demenz. Der Schlüssel zur inneren Welt)
The article in German language describes the challenges that families and caregivers of people living with dementia face, and presents national activities and expertise in dementia. It is the first to report the outcomes of the first Dementia Research Forum of the CRISP project in September 2019. At the Dementia Research Forum, persons living with dementia, close relatives and professionals in the healthcare sector were invited to the university campus, learned about the research project and gave recommendations on the research and dissemination of research findings.
Letzebuerger Journal, 20 August 2019
Risk factors of dementia (Des racines énigmatiques)
The article in French language highlights some of the known risk factors of dementia and presents the objective of the ERC-CRISP project to understand better which behavior changes can reduce risk of dementia.
Radio 100.7, 19 October 2018
An ERC award for Anja Leist (En ERC grant fir'd Anja Leist)
A radio interview in German language on the objectives of the ERC-CRISP
Wort, 28 February 2019
Fighting memory loss (Kampf gegen das Vergessen)
An article about the ERC-CRISP project in German language with a call for participation for persons living with dementia.
Wort, 11 March 2017
Workshops in Lycée Belval: "Don't confine persons living with dementia" ("Menschen mit Demenz soll man nicht einsperren")
The article in German language on an earlier outreach activity presents one of the dementia awareness workshop for school pupils in a Lycée technique in Luxembourg. Find more information in English language here.
Research visit by Australian collaborator
Janet Maccora is an Australian PhD candidate affiliated with Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of New South Wales. She has a background in epidemiology and her research interest is in the protective association between education and dementia. While working with the ERC-CRISP Cognitive Ageing project team, Janet would like to explore gender and cultural differences in the association between education and dementia, using large cross-cultural datasets such as the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Her two-month research stay is funded by a travel scholarship from the Australian Research Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR).
Esch-sur-Alzette, 19-20 September 2019
Dementia Research Forum
On 19 and 20 September 2019, the first Dementia Research Forum took place on the Belval campus. Persons living with dementia were invited to the university to discuss the research questions of the CRISP project with the PI and to advise on the research and dissemination of the research results. As relatives and caregivers of persons living with dementia also showed interest in the event, a second day was added to the event where close relatives of a person who lives or had lived with dementia were invited. The participants had the opportunity to bring along accompanying persons.
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. In fact, a common saying by dementia advocates is “Nothing about us without us”. Most importantly, people with dementia from their viewpoint as experts in the disease – after all, they live with it – should advise us researchers on how to do better research and better explain our research results to the public. People living with dementia should be given the opportunity to influence research by giving input to which factors they think more knowledge is needed about.
See the report in French, German and English language here. See a magazine article about some of the outcomes of the Dementia Research Forum here.