At Hjärnlabbet, we are conducting studies of volunteering healthy individuals to understand how human behavior influences brain and cognition in adulthood and aging. Our research is conducted within four related projects:
Associations among changes in lifestyle, brain, and cognition. Our cognitive abilities decline as we age. It remains unknown which brain changes that are the most important correlates of changes in cognitive performance and how many brain changes are related to each other. It is also unknown how behavioral factors, such as physical exercise and intellectual stimulation, are affecting aging of brain and cognition. We are, in this project, using large population-based longitudinal studies to examine the associations among changes in lifestyle, brain, and cognition.
The effect of education on cognitive ability. Longer education has an association with higher cognitive ability and lower risk of dementia in old age. The extent to which education causally influences cognitive ability is though debated, because individuals with higher cognitive ability also tend to go further in the educational system. We are in this project aiming to better understand the effects of education on cognitive ability by studying the effects of participation in adult education and similar activities. We are also using register and conscription data to understand the effects of various historical reforms of the educational system in Sweden on cognitive ability and the risk for dementia in older age.
REBOOT - Releasing the brakes on adult plasticity. Brain plasticity, that is, the capacity of the brain to adapt to experience, is limited after childhood and is further reduced in aging. This projects aims to discover and study factors that can increase plasticity in adulthood and aging. We are for example investigating the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation, physical exercise and some pharmacological factors on improvements in cognitive ability from cognitive training. We are also using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to understand the structural and functional changes that may underlie training-related changes in performance.
Structural Brain Plasticity. The brain’s structure is changing in many ways when we learn new skills. The volume of regions of the brain can for example increase when you learn to juggle or to write with your non-dominant hand. In this project, we are using MRI to study changes in brain structure during learning of new skills, such as writing with the non-dominant hand or learning a new tool. We are aiming to the structural brain changes supporting improvements in performance, how these changes develop over time, and if they can benefit new learning.
Our research is currently funded by the European Research Council (ERC), FORTE, and the Swedish Research Council.