Brain resilience

Dr. Miranka Wirth, Dipl.-Psych.

Areas of investigation/research focus

Around one third of Alzheimer’s disease cases worldwide are attributed to potentially modifiable risk factors, such as physical and cognitive inactivity (Linvingston et al, Lancet, 2020). In light of this prospect, it is essential to initiate research programs that promote healthy aging and contribute to the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

Our mission is to understand and to enhance brain resilience to aging and Alzheimer's disease through a multimodal approach. We inform about, what everyone can do to age healthy.

From this goal, several important objectives arise that are central to our research work:

  • to characterize vulnerability of brain systems to aging and brain pathology due to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • to investigate protectivelifestyle factors that protect against brain pathology and promote brain resilience.
  • to establish early and effective intervention programs to enhance brain resilience and neuroplasticity in the aging brain.

Our research program (Figure 1) is based on a translational research perspective. We focus on three interactive topic areas.

Area I investigates brain vulnerability, using multimodal neuroimaging as well as physiological and neurocognitive biomarkers.

Area II examines neurobiological mechanisms and correlates underlying protective lifestyle factors.

Area III examines feasibility and effectiveness of lifestyle-based interventions, combining dance-based movement, music and mindfulness, in the eldery.

As a research team, we are dedicating ourselves to following themes:

to promote healthy aging

The key to this ultimate goal involves multi-disciplinary and translational efforts, which 1. identify mechanisms and determinants of “healthy” and “pathological” aging and 2. translates this knowledge into new generation intervention programs in at-risk populations.

to characterize brain resilience

Our research projects integrate neuroimaging techniques (molecular, vascular, structural, and functional), measures of risk / protective lifestyle factors, and neuropsychological data. We exploit existing platforms (e.g., ADNI, DELCODE) that provide multimodal data in older populations across the Alzheimer’s disease continuum.

to translate research findings

We seek to develop innovative intervention approaches against Alzheimer’s disease through synergies in neurosciences, technology, arts and culture. Our approaches aim to translate basic neuroscientific findings from “environmental enrichment” studies to humans in order to activate brain plasticity and regeneration.

to collaborate and disseminate

Communication is key to our work. Through public activities on e.g. World Alzheimer’s day, we directly inform older people about our research results and raise awareness to participate in our ongoing projects. We also contribute to the DD-Concept Scientific Area Network (SAN) “Processes of Ageing”, the European research consortium “Medit-Ageing” and collaborate with leading experts at the Faculty of Psychology (TU Dresden); the DZNE Magdeburg (Dr. Anne Maass); UCL, London (Prof. Natalie Marchant), INSERM, Caen (Prof. Gaël Chételat); McGill University, Montreal (Prof. Sylvia Villeneuve).

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