Cognitive Health in Ageing (CHA)

The role of cognitive stimulation in enhancing psychological and neural well-being

In collaboration with research groups led by Professor Emily Holmes (Cambridge Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit), we have been investigating whether increasing physical and mental activity can improve cognitive health and prevent cognitive decline associated with ageing.

Experimental Approach

The research takes advantage of studies currently being carried out in the Brain and Cognition lab, using novel behavioural tests to investigate cognitive decline associated with normal ageing. We are also currently conducting early phase translational studies to investigate the effects of computer-based cognitive interventions in older adults. The interventions have been designed to allow for maximum control in optimising training for each individual participant as well as being highly fun and engaging.

We use novel behavioural psychophysical experiments in combination with brain scanning techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), to investigate brain changes related to cognitive decline in ageing and to examine the effects of cognitive interventions on the functioning of the brain.


As a result, we hope to be able to identify markers of cognitive and brain functions that are key to maintaining mental health and preventing cognitive decline. We do not expect ageing to affect all brains in the same way. We have therefore adopted an individual-differences approach, so that we can understand the different patterns of vulnerability that can affect different individuals.

Moreover, understanding normal age-related decline provides a fruitful platform for developing and assessing deviations from normal decline, which can help us to identify cognitive and neural markers associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and motor-neurone disease (MND, ALS).

Investigators & Collaborators

Several members of the Brain & Cognition Lab and of OHBA contribute to this line of investigation. Lead investigators include Kia Nobre and Susie Murphy. Postdoctoral researchers are Zita Patai, Andrew Quinn, and Nahid Zokaei. Doctoral students include: Simone Heideman, Joshua Chauvin, Robert Mok, Alexander Luettich, Sophie Raeder, and Clare O’Donoghue. Our research assistant is Tayla McCloud.

Major collaborators include: Emily Holmes (Cambridge Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit), Heidi Johansen-Berg (Oxford FMRIB), Clare Mackay (Oxford Psychiatry), Glyn Humphreys (Oxford Experimental Psychology), and Masud Husain (Oxford Experimental Psychology).


The programme of research into Cognitive Health in Ageing is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and run through the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

Related Web Links: 

Cognitive Health In Ageing (CHA)

Oxford Dementia and Ageing Research