Psychosocial Epidemiology and Public Health

Priv.-Doz. Dr. Francisca S. Rodriguez

Research areas/focus

While many strive to experience old age in good health, few people in today’s society ultimately achieve this. However, there are many different ways to stay fit.

Other than physical limitations, many people face a decline in cognitive performance in old age. In our research, we focus on investigating how cognitive performance may be maintained in old age. To this end, we want to identify factors that reduce the risk of experiencing cognitive impairment or even dementia. These factors are protective factors. At the same time, we also determine factors that increase the risk for impaired cognition in old age. By identifying these factors, we can determine which measures can be taken, for instance in public health, to improve cognitive health in the population.

The work of our research group focuses on the living environment of the individual. Biological and neurological processes that drive brain aging are dynamic and do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they can be directly influenced by a person's living environment. Our goal, therefore, is to determine how this living environment can be shaped to provide the best conditions for good cognition in old age. Occupational conditions, leisure activities, and mental health are examples of psychological and social influences (so-called 'psychosocial' influences) that we investigate in our work.

In collaboration with other research groups, we also examine how psychosocial factors shape neurobiological processes of cognitive aging. In this way, the findings of our research can contribute to the understanding of brain ageing.

Current research projects (as of 2021): Our current projects cover a variety of topics. For example, we are investigating how socioeconomic and social conditions, as well as interpersonal relationships relate to cognitive decline and the risk of developing dementia. In addition, we are currently running a survey on non-medical treatment and care option for dementia. Expanding on this, we are conducting observational and experimental studies on creativity and music. Another focus of our work is on how adults with memory problems cope with everyday activities and which strategies prove helpful in doing so.

More information about some of our current projects can be found here: Kreativität und Kognition | Neurokognition und Alltagsaktivitäten | Life.act

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