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Neuropsychology of aging

How come some people live to be far over 100 years in cognitive health whereas other develop dementia in their 60s? What can we learn from those who remain cognitively healthy until extreme ages? Can we negate the negative effects of dementia, for example by physical activity? Can we improve mood by offering music to people with dementia? And how can we distinguish healthy aging from early dementia? What are protective factors for dementia?

These and other questions are key to the neuropsychology of aging group. Here we study the interaction between the aging brain and behavior, with a specific focus on dementia. Due to the aging of the population and the extended disease duration, dementia leads to high healthcare costs and can be considered one of the largest healthcare challenges. The research within this program is conducted in collaboration with the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam, Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc. 

Sietske Sikkes leads research into cognitive reserve and resilience, in close collaboration with the 100-plus study. This research theme focuses on how people can become 100 years and older and retain their cognitive functions. In the upcoming year, topics such as neuronal damage, sleep and sex differences will be addressed. The second research theme is the early detection of dementia using novel measurement techniques for cognitive and functional decline. One example is the Amsterdam IADL questionnaire, developed to measure cognitively complex daily activities. The questionnaire is used worldwide in clinical practice, as an aid in the diagnostic process and monitoring disease progression. The third research theme focuses on non-pharmacological interventions, with the aim to prevent cognitive decline in the elderly. Lifestyle is one of the potential modifying factors. As part of the ‘Maintaining Optimal Cognitive Functioning in Aging’ (MOCIA) consortium the research group focuses on developing a module for cognitive activity and stress reduction. 

Erik Scherder leads research into studying the relationship between physical activity (e.g. walking, chewing) and behavior (e.g. cognition) in people with dementia. Furthermore, his research group studies the relationship between pain, physical activity and behavior in people with cognitive vulnerabilities, such as people with dementia. Specific research questions concern the causality between motor activity and cognition, between motor activity and behavior, and between motor activity and pain. A third research line focuses on the effects of music on the brain, both for healthy elderly and people living with dementia. Other projects led by Erik Scherder focus on (I) brain injury in professional sports (e.g. soccer) and return to play, (II) the effects of music on motor activity and school results in children with brain injury and (III) the effects of music on emotion regulation in detainees. 


S.C.E. (Sanne) Balvert, PhD student
E. Butterbrod (Elke), Universitair Docent
Douma, Gerdine, PhD student  
S.A. (Sara) Galle, PhD student
Dr. M.V. (Maarten) Milders, Universitair Docent
A. (Angela) Prins, PhD student
Prof. dr. E.J.A. (Erik) Scherder, Hoogleraar
R. (Rogier) Scherder, MD, PhD student
M.E. (Elise) van der Sluys, PhD student
E.T. (Evelien) Wolf, PhD student
I. (Ilvana) Fejzovic, PhD student
R. van den Berg, PhD student