Category Archives: News

Opening of PhD position in Lyon, France, in cognitive neurosciences.

Opening of a PhD position in Lyon, France at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, DYCOG Team,INSERM U1028 – CNRS UMR5292, under the direction of Dr. Antoine Lutz in the doctoral school Neurosciences and Cognition (ED 476 – NSCO) of Lyon University.

Title: Investigating the neuroimaging correlates of meditation expertise during a socio-affective paradigm.

The position is to be filled as soon as October 1st 2021. The fellowship will involve working on an EC-funded Silver Santé Study –research project investigating the impacts of mental training techniques, such as meditation and language-learning, on mental health and well-being in Europe’s ageing population. The 5-year project is led by Dr Gaël Chételat of INSERM in Caen, France. This H2020 European project includes 10 partners in 6 European Countries. The present project will collaborate in particular with the Laboratory for Behavioral Neurology and Imaging of Cognition at the University of Geneva (Prof. Patrik Vuilleumier and Dr. Olga Klimecki, experts in Affective Neuroscience).  For further information about the Silver Santé Study visit the project website at or watch the project’s 3-minute film at The protocols of the study are described in the manuscripts listed below. In this project, Dr. Lutz is the leader work-package Meditation supervising in particular the meditation interventions and the study of meditation experts.


The primary goal of this doctoral work is to analyze and publish one datasets of fMRI data on the cross-sectional relationship between meditation training and emotion regulation in brain and behavior collected in a group of expert senior meditators (>10,000 hours of meditation in life, > 65 year old) compared to aged-matched healthy older adults.  The aim of this project is to identify the neural signatures of meditation states in senior expert meditators using a fMRI paradigm called the socio-affective video task (SoVT). This paradigm allows to investigate this link between emotion, meditation and aging both on a behavioral and neural level. The main emotional mechanism measured by this task relates to the capacity to regulate responses to aversive situations from daily life, as it exposes participants to video clips of individuals suffering. Resting-state periods distributed throughout the task additionally allow to evaluate emotional recovery from these stressful events, both in terms of brain activity and experienced emotions. A sample of senior expert meditators (n = 27-30 experts) will be examined for this cross-sectional study. Participants will perform the SoVT under two meditation states (mindfulness and compassion, respectively), which will allow to map distinct neural signatures of meditation expertise. Specifically, functional connectivity analyses will allow to determine for the first time the brain networks recruited during emotion regulation as a function of meditation state. Data for this paradigm has already been collected in a sample of 140 healthy seniors novices to meditation and 25 expert meditators. The data have been analyzed for the novices. Following this project, the candidate will have opportunity to work on various research questions/ dataset related either to the Meditageing project or to another large brain imaging dataset on meditation (ERC consolidator Brain& Mindfulness) using MRI, fMRI, or  EEG.

 Candidates should have a Master in psychology, or cognitive and/or affective neurosciences.  The candidate should have, ideally, previous experiences in analyzing functional neuroimaging using SPM and to be familiar with research on meditation or empathy.  Theoretical and practical experiences with the following software will be relevant:  Matlab, statistical software (R), standard neuroimaging software (e.g. SPM, freesurfer). Proficiency in written and oral English is required.

The doctoral fellowship could start September 1st 2021 or October 1st 2021. This 3-year position follows standard French salaries at INSERM. To apply for this position, please send a curriculum vitae with references, cover letter describing research interest and experience to Antoine Lutz ( Please write in the title (“Application to the MEDITAGEING doctoral fellowship”).


Lutz, A., Klimecki, O.M., Collette, F., Poisnel, G., Arenaza-Urquijo, E., Marchant, N.L., De La Sayette, V., Rauchs, G., Salmon, E., Vuilleumier, P., Frison, E., Vivien, D., Chételat, G., Medit-Ageing Research Group, 2018. The Age-Well observational study on expert meditators in the Medit-Ageing European project. Alzheimers Dement (N Y) 4, 756–764.

Poisnel, G., Arenaza-Urquijo, E., Collette, F., Klimecki, O.M., Marchant, N.L., Wirth, M., de La Sayette, V., Rauchs, G., Salmon, E., Vuilleumier, P., Frison, E., Maillard, A., Vivien, D., Lutz, A., Chételat, G., Medit-Ageing Research Group, 2018. The Age-Well randomized controlled trial of the Medit-Ageing European project: Effect of meditation or foreign language training on brain and mental health in older adults. Alzheimers Dement (N Y) 4, 714–723.

Silver Santé researchers, students and guest speakers reveal details of their on-going studies

Over 90 attendees from across Europe, the United States and Australia joined the online public meeting on 16th June 2021, where ongoing research by the Silver Santé Study investigating the impact of interventions on mental health and well-being in the ageing population, was presented.

The online meeting, Mental Health & Well-being in the Ageing Population: Research, Risks and Recommendations covered presentations and discussions on a range of topics on mental health and well-being in older adults.  A key topic was the Brain health of older participants of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, and whether psycho-affective factors such as sleep, physical activity and self-reflection can mitigate the risks of developing dementia.  The perception of meditation and mindfulness as therapies or activities over the last five years was also explored.

Expert guest speakers David Bartres Faz, Professor of Medical Psychology at the University of Barcelona and Dr James Kirby, Senior Lecturer & Clinical Psychologist at the University of Queensland joined the meeting.  Professor Bartres Faz presented results from the Barcelona Brain Health Initiative study that is investigating mental health effects and moderators during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr James Kirby spoke about his personal experiences as a clinical psychologist, raising awareness of the increase in research on meditation and growing acceptance of the emotional aspects concerned such as compassion.

During the final session of the day, expert meditator Martine Batchelor and English teachers – Corinne Schimmer of Carré International and Caitlin Ware of INSERM – shared their experiences of delivering the interventions with trial participants, highlighting the emotional benefits of meditation and the feasibility of learning a language at any age.  This session was enriched by feedback on their experiences of being involved from participants directly involved in the study.

Project Co-ordinator Dr Gael Chételat of INSERM, said:

“The global population is ageing and as we live longer, ensuring good mental as well as physical health in later years is becoming ever more important.  The two clinical trials conducted by our expert researchers in six European countries have assessed the impact of mental training techniques and lifestyle changes on the mental health and well-being of older adults.  The Silver Santé Study is the longest ever study of both meditation and foreign language learning and is the first research to examine the emotional aspects of ageing and mental health.

This public meeting was a unique opportunity for us to share and cascade our findings, methodologies and data to a range of interested audiences across Europe and stimulate discussion in this area.”

Some of the researchers, students and experts who were involved in the Silver Santé Study

Silver Santé students share early research results

Students and post-docs working on the EU funded Silver Santé Study gathered online to showcase their work with peers and supervisors at a ‘mini’ project consortium meeting (28 April 2021).

The meeting featured more than 20 presentations from students in France, UK, Belgium, and Germany covering the project’s core themes of meditation, lifestyle, attention, emotion, cognition, and biomarkers.  Results from the Age-Well and SCD-Well trials undertaken during the 5 year EU funded Silver Santé Study were presented and discussed, together with recent research investigating the impact on brain health of older participants of the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19.

PhD student, Tim Whitfield, of University College London, who was one of the organisers, said:
“The ‘mini’ meeting was a great opportunity for students and research leaders to come together to share project information and results, discuss the implications of our studies and ultimately advance our understanding of how to safeguard mental health and well-being in the ageing population. 

Co-organiser, Francesca Felisatti, a PhD student at the University of Caen added: “This was the first Silver Santé Study event of its kind, and I am extremely proud to have been a part of it!”

Silver Santé students, post-docs and supervisors, in the online ‘mini’ consortium meeting in April 2021


Making lifestyle changes, such as taking up mindfulness or health self-management courses, can help improve the mental health of older adults who are already experiencing memory problems, according to a new scientific study.

The research, published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, studied the impact of an eight-week mindfulness or health self-management course on anxiety, which is associated with increased risk of dementia.

The volunteers, all with subjective cognitive decline (self-perceived memory problems that cannot be verified by testing), had anxiety levels measured before, directly after the courses and again six months later. The results showed that anxiety levels had reduced directly after both the mindfulness and health self-management courses , and the reduction was maintained at six months. No difference in reduction of anxiety was found between the courses.

Dr Natalie Marchant, of University College London, UK who led the trial, said: “Although we expected mindfulness meditation to have more of an impact on mental health, the results of our trial show that small but significant improvements in mental health can be observed after a short course of mindfulness or health self-management in people who are already experiencing some subjective cognitive decline, and the effects last for at least six months.”

The SCD-Well trial included 147 participants from memory clinics in France, Spain, Germany and the UK, with blood tests, cognitive assessments, and questionnaires used to assess the impact of the interventions.  The full details of the study can be viewed here.

Dr Marchant, concluded: “Our results offer an encouraging first step towards providing an intervention that could be used to reduce anxiety and potentially the risk of developing dementia which would benefit both individuals and society as a whole in terms of the associated emotional, health and social care costs of poor mental health.”

Hear from Jenny Cleary, of Loughton, Essex who took part in the SCD -Well trial after experiencing problems with her memory, by clicking on the image below.

SCD-Well clinical trial participant, Jenny Cleary, who took part in an eight-week mindfulness course.

Save the date: Mental health & well-being in the ageing population

Research, Risks and Recommendations

210519 - MA News Post EU

Wednesday 16th June 2021

09:30- 16:45 CEST

08:30- 15:45 BST

The Silver Santé Study invites you to Save the Date for the project’s online public meeting on Wednesday 16th June 2021. The meeting will focus on important and timely topics highlighting the research, risks and recommendations generated by participants in the Silver Santé Study with external guest speakers. The online event will be split into five sessions:

Session 1:  COVID-19 & its potential impact on health in ageing

Session 2: Lifestyle & Psycho-affective factors associated with brain health

Session 3: Meditation & Mindfulness – perception & practice change

Session 4: Mitigating the risk of developing dementia

Session 5: Voices from the study – the experiences of participants & their teachers

Register below.

This event has now ended.

Silver Santé students showcase their research at ‘mini’ consortium meeting

Students and post-docs working on the Silver Santé Study will be sharing and showcasing their work with peers and supervisors at a ‘mini’ project consortium meeting.

The online meeting, organized by the participants themselves, will include more than 20 presentations from students working in France, the UK, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany covering an exciting and varied array of topics grouped around the project’s work packages.

PhD student, Francesca Felisatti, of the University of Caen, who is one of the organisers, said: “The ‘mini meeting’ promises to be the ideal platform to share ongoing developments with peers and supervisors alike, and is a great opportunity to promote the work we are each doing.”

Co-organiser, Tim Whitfield, a PhD student at UCL, said: “I am thrilled that the Medit-Ageing students have been given the opportunity to conduct our own conference. The scientific standard of student and post-doc projects is very high, and I wait with excitement for their presentations at the forthcoming event!”

The one-day meeting will be followed by the project’s final full consortium meeting in June.

Some of the postgraduate students who will be taking part in the ‘mini’ consortium meeting.

Older adults with lower blood serotonin levels show more emotional brain activity when they face other people’s suffering, new Silver Santé research reveals

New research published by Silver Santé Study researchers has revealed that older people who have lower blood serotonin levels have more activity in brain regions associated with emotional reactivity, when they face the suffering of others.

The research, published in Biological Psychology, measured the blood serotonin levels of healthy older adults and then measured brain activity while they watched videos of people suffering. The 135 participants watched a series of documentary video clips showing people suffering both emotionally and physically while inside an fMRI scanner so that the immediate effects could be measured.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter present in both brain and blood which helps regulate mental well-being and other important physiological functions. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression. The full details of the study can be viewed here.

Yacila Deza-Araujo, of the University of Geneva, who led the research, said: “These results are very exciting because they show that lower levels of circulating serotonin could also indicate a decreased availability of this neurotransmitter on a brain level. This would explain the higher response of emotion-related brain regions when participants see videos of people suffering”.

“This is interesting because to date, the relationship between serotonin and emotional brain activity was only investigated with pharmacological interventions and mostly, in younger adults. Our study shows, for the first time, the same association in older adults which is particularly important to understand the higher predisposition to depression and anxiety in this population”.

The Silver Santé Study is a 5-year EU-funded study investigating the mental health and well-being of Europe’s ageing population. It is also investigating whether mental training techniques, such as learning a language or practicing meditation, can help safeguard mental health in later life. To find out more about the study click here.

Silver Santé Study partners share progress in online annual meeting

Partners from the 11 institutions in six countries that make up the Silver Santé Study consortium gathered online to share progress in their research as part of the project’s annual meeting.

The Zoom meeting, which took place in October, involved more than 40 people from the UK, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and France – all updating each other on the latest advances in their research and support work towards the goal of learning about how to safeguard mental health and well-being in the ageing population. The meeting also included an ‘elevator-pitch’ workshop devised and hosted by the project’s communications partner, Minerva UK.

Dr Géraldine Poisnel, of the coordinating team at Inserm, France, who organised the meeting, said: “This was our first online consortium meeting, due to the Covid restrictions, but it was wonderful to get all the partners and their teams together to discuss progress, make decisions as a group and make plans for the final stages of this important project.”

The project, which is due to end on December 31st 2020, has applied to the EC for a six-month extension due to the delays caused by the Covid pandemic and is awaiting news of the decision.

The Silver Santé Study consortium partners taking part in their annual meeting online in October 2020.

Edelweiss Touron victorious in Great Silver Santé Study Thesis Challenge!

PhD student, Edelweiss Touron, was crowned the winner of the project’s Great Silver Santé Study Thesis Challenge after impressing the judges with her clear, concise and well delivered thesis entitled ‘Is the cup half full or half empty?’.

Edelweiss, of the University of Caen, was one of 11 students from France, Belgium, and the UK working on the project to enter the competition. She impressed the judges with her presentation on the association of subclinical depressive symptoms with brain changes in healthy adults for its use of analogies, clear scientific explanation, and excellent presentation skills.

Harriet Demnitz-King, of UCL, was awarded second place for her presentation on the association between repetitive negative thinking and markers of Alzheimer’s disease. In third place was Francesca Felisatti, of the University of Caen for her presentation entitled ‘All roads lead to Rome’ for which she also won the ‘audience choice’ award, voted on by all participants in the consortium meeting.

The judges – Eric Salmon of the University of Liège, Rhonda Smith of Minerva UK, and Olga Klimecki of University of Geneva – praised the students for the excellent standard of the presentations overall and said it was extremely difficult to choose the winner.

Click on the image below to watch Edelweiss’s winning presentation.

Final round of Age Well follow-up visits planned to start in January 2021

Wave 1 participants in our Age Well clinical trial are being invited to attend Cyceron for their fourth and final round of follow-up tests in January 2021.

The 42 participants, all aged 65+, have kindly agreed to take part in this additional round of tests to further strengthen validation of the trial by studying whether the effects of mental training techniques persist over time.

The group, all based in Caen, France, have been helping our expert researchers learn more about mental health & well-being in the ageing population. After taking part in a series of baseline tests, each volunteer was randomly assigned to one of three groups – an English language course, a meditation course, or a control group in which participants made no changes to their lifestyle.

Project Coordinator Dr Gaël Chételat, of Cyceron, says: “The safety and well-being or all our participants is our primary concern, which is why the follow-up visits were postponed until January.

“We will be constantly monitoring the situation and the visits will only go ahead if we are confident we can properly safeguard the health the volunteers who have kindly devoted so much of their time to helping us learn more about mental health in the ageing population.”

Blood tests, neuroimaging scans and questionnaires have been used by our expert researchers to assess the impact of the mental training techniques on the brain. The volunteers’ lifestyle habits – such as sleep, diet, physical exercise and emotions – have also been monitored.

Final follow-up tests for participants in waves 2 and 3 are expected to take place in September 2021 and February 2022, respectively.

An AGE WELL participant takes part in a neuroimaging test at Cyceron, France.

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