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The Ageing Lab

Exploring interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of older people

News archive 2014

PhD Studentship available

A PhD opportunity allied to the Tablet for Healthy Ageing project is now available. The University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE) is currently inviting applications for their 2015 funded PhD Studentships. Dr Alan Gow, Project Director (Heriot-Watt University), and Dr Sarah MacPherson (University of Edinburgh) will co-supervise a PhD project, summarised below.

If you are interested in applying for this PhD project (or want to discuss other ideas within this remit), please contact Dr Gow in the first instance. Details of all the projects proposed for the CCACE PhD Studentships, the specific requirements for applicants and the process for applying can be found here: http://www.ccace.ed.ac.uk/node/279.

Title: Technologies to improve physical and social activity in cognitive ageing
Supervisors: Sarah MacPherson (CCACE member, Human Cognitive Neuropsychology group) & Alan Gow (CCACE member, Human Cognitive Ageing: Individual Differences group)

Older adults vary considerably in their age-related cognitive decline. Research has highlighted that being active and maintaining an engaged lifestyle are valuable for better cognition in old age. Encouraging physical and social engagement are important interventions thought to reduce age-related cognitive decline. With advances in technology, recent research has encouraged cognitive and physical training in older adults through tablet computers and related technologies. Technology also has the advantage of providing older adults with a window into the social world and better social networks. This PhD project will investigate the benefits of physical training and social media in older adults’ cognition.

December 2014


Team welcomes Dr Ria Vaportzis

Eleftheria VaportzisIn late November, the Tablet for Healthy Ageing team and the Department of Psychology at Heriot-Watt University were delighted to welcome Dr Ria Vaportzis as Postdoctoral Research Associate. Dr Vaportzis joins the team from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. On starting with on the project, Ria said she was "thrilled to be part of this great team, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (if not the most beautiful!)".

Ria will be developing the first phase of the Tablet for Healthy Ageing project, alongside Project Director Dr Alan Gow. The goal is to develop an intervention programme to investigate the feasibility of tablet computers to improve cognitive function, and general health and wellbeing in older adults. Research developing interventions 
with older adults utilising new technologies represents a steadily growing field, and the Tablet for Healthy Ageing team is looking forward to a busy year ahead.

November 2014


Brain Training on Trial: Summing-up and Passing Judgement

At this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Project Director Dr Alan Gow performed a show entitled “Brain Training on Trial”, as part oEdinburgh Beltane's Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. The show attracted an audience of over 120 people, which made it the bestselling show in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas programme. The show was a collaboration between the Department of Psychology at Heriot-Watt University, and the University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE).

To hear about some of the things Alan and the audience explored in the show, you can watch the short video below. As a follow-up, Alan has also put together a blog which discusses things to look out for if you’re shopping for “brain training” games. The blog appears on Research the Headlines at: http://researchtheheadlines.org/2014/09/09/brain-training-on-trial/. There’s also a summary of the event at http://www.ccace.ed.ac.uk/news-events/latest/codi14.

October 2014


Postdoctoral Research Associate in Cognitive Intervention

Applications are invited for a PDRA position commencing from October 2014. The Dunhill Medical Trust funded “Tablet for Healthy Ageing” project seeks to design, develop and then test interventions to be used with older adults using tablet computers and related technology. The post will be for 18 months.

The successful applicant will be an enthusiastic and flexible postdoctoral researcher and will join the Project Director, Dr Alan Gow, in initiating this new research programme. Applicants are required to hold a PhD in psychology or a relevant field, and knowledge of cognitive ageing or interventions would be an advantage. Experience of managing research, developing test protocols, and recruiting and testing participants, is required.

Full details on the post, including how to apply, can be found at: http://www.hw.ac.uk/about/careers/job-opportunities/postdoctoral-research-associate-cognitive-18017.htm

September 2014


"Brain Training on Trial" at the Edinburgh Fringe

At this year's Fringe, Project Director Dr Alan Gow will be one of a number of academics from Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh, Napier and Queen Margaret universities performing as part of Edinburgh Beltane's Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. His contribution is a show called "Brain Training on Trial" on August 18th at 3.40pm. You can watch a short trailer and read the full show description below. Follow updates on the show's development via Twitter, and buy your tickets here.

Brain Training on Trial: Spent your hard-earned cash on games that promise to protect your brain? Still forgetting why you went into that room? Then come and put brain training on trial. Be our prosecution, defence and jury as we examine the claims that brain training games protect your brain. Hear the evidence for and against their effectiveness and cross-examine our expert witness. As you question the evidence, what will your verdict be: brain training, guilty or not guilty? With Dr Alan Gow, Lecturer in Psychology at Heriot-Watt University.

August 2014


Presentation at the 17th European Conference on Personality

Conference presentationProject Director, Dr Alan Gow, presented at the 17th European Conference on Personality in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July. His presentation "Neuroprotective leisure activities and cognitive ageing" was part of the symposium "Openness to experience as a protective factor for cognitive aging" (Organisers – A. Cengia, M. Ziegler & P. Mussel). The full abstract is below.

Neuroprotective leisure activities and cognitive ageing
Alan J. Gow, Sophie von Stumm, and Ian J. Deary

Identifying factors that account for individual differences in cognitive ageing is a research priority. Much of this effort has concentrated on leisure activity participation, specifically the cognitively-protective effect of intellectually stimulating activities, and how personality traits determine the likelihood of seeking out such activities. The current study uses data from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, a longitudinal study of cognitive ageing. Participants were recruited at age 70 (N = 1091) and completed cognitive ability assessments (covering the domains of general cognitive ability, processing speed and memory) and self-report measures of lifestyle and personality. Previous analyses suggest that although leisure activity participation was associated with cognitive ability at age 70, these were completely attenuated after accounting for childhood cognitive ability (Gow et al., 2012). The current study extends these previously cross-sectional analyses to examine associations between leisure activity participation and cognitive ageing across 3 years, and the role of Intellect/Openness in determining activity participation.

July 2014


Funding secured from The Dunhill Medical Trust to initiate "Tablet for Healthy Ageing"

Dunhill Medical TrustIn June, The Dunhill Medical Trust awarded funding to initiate the "Tablet for Healthy Ageing", a supported intervention programme utilising tablet computers. It will explore the opportunities for new technology to deliver, monitor and personalise interventions with older adults and is the first phase of a long-term research programme.

Led by Dr Alan Gow from the Department of Psychology at Heriot-Watt University, the research programme will commence in late-2014.

June 2014