PostDoc opportunity: Open position for a post-doc in Psychology/Neurosciences in Caen, France

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Laboratory: Inserm U1237, PhIND, Caen, France (dir: Pr Denis Vivien), Team Multimodal Neuroimaging and Lifestyle in Aging and Alzheimer’s disease (Dr. Gaël Chételat)

Project: Sex differences in risk profiles across the Alzheimer’s disease continuum

Project

This project is a collaboration between the team of Drs Gaël Chételat (Caen, France), Miranka Wirth (Dresden, Germany) and Natalie Marchant (London, UK).

Recent estimates suggest that 40% of dementia cases can be prevented by acting on modifiable risk factors (cardiovascular, lifestyle, psychological). On the other hand, sex has been associated with a different level of susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Still, the effect of sex remains largely unexplored, especially when considering sex-specificities in AD risk. This project will investigate if the relationship between risk profiles and pathological Alzheimer’s disease (AD) hallmarks differs by sex.

To do so, the project will use two existing longitudinal cohorts of healthy older individuals and patients along the AD continuum: the DELCODE (DZNE, Germany) and the Age-Well (MEDITAGEING, Caen, France) cohorts. Both cohorts are well characterized with overlapping and complementary measures of risk factors and multimodal AD biomarkers, including cardiovascular, lifestyle, psychological, inflammatory marker assessments, detailed neuropsychological evaluation and multimodal neuroimaging (structural and functional MRI, as well as Aβ and FDG-PET) and biomaterial collection (blood samples or CSF samples). In addition, Age-Well participants underwent an 18-month intervention based either on meditation or second language training, while a group of participants received no intervention. This will allow us to determine whether, in healthy older adults, sex-specific risk profiles are modifiable by behavioural interventions.

All data required for the project are already available. The project will require the use of advanced multivariate statistical modelling and deep learning to derive sex-specific risk profiles related to pathological AD hallmarks and clinical progression.

Identifying sex-specific risk profiles associated with AD pathological features will contribute to the development of sex-specific diagnostic procedures for early detection of dementia and will guide recommendations for sex-personalized interventions.

Position’s characteristics

This is a 2-year position, starting on July 1st 2022. Salary will be adapted to the candidate’s
experience and will follow standard French salaries at Inserm.

The post-doc will be affiliated to the Chételat lab (http://www.chetelat-lab.fr; Caen, France). She/he will be in charge of data analyses (behavioral and neuroimaging) and dissemination of the results (communications in conferences and manuscript publication). As part of the Chételat lab, she/he will also be involved in the lab activities (which might include data processing, quality control etc.). The candidate will also work with the other collaborators of this project (Dr Natalie Marchant, UCL and Dr Miranka Wirth, DZNE Dresden). She/he will be invited in collaborators’ laboratories for short periods to work on the project, for example, to access and process DZNE data.

Candidate profile and requirements:
  • PhD in psychology, neuropsychology, neurosciences, or related field.
  • Highly motivated with scientific curiosity and good teamwork skills
  • Good statistical skills are required.
  • Previous experience in the field of aging, Alzheimer’s Disease and/or neuroimaging.
  • Proficiency in written and oral English is required.
Application process:

Please send a curriculum vitae, a letter on motivation and interests and 2 reference letters before March 31st to Julie Gonneaud: gonneaud@cyceron.fr

For further information about the Silver Santé Study visit the project website at www.silversantestudy.eu
For the DZNE-DELCODE study, visit https://www.dzne.de/en/research/studies/clinicalstudies/delcode/

Project Coordinator Awarded the MARIE-PAULE BURRUS Prize

By Dr Gaël Chételat project coordinator, Silver Santé Study

(Posted 03 December 2021)

I am very honoured to have been awarded the MARIE-PAULE BURRUS prize at this year’s French Foundation for Medical Research (FRM) ceremony. When I received the email informing me that I was the winner of the prize, I first thought it was spam; then I thought that maybe it was a call encouraging me to apply for the prize; but reading the email again, there was no ambiguity that the prize was already attributed to me. I then thought that maybe it was something I had applied for a long time ago and didn’t remember; so, I looked in my files – but couldn’t find any trace of this award application except in my memory.

It was even more rewarding that it came as a total surprise because, in contrast to most prizes, you don’t have to apply for this one: some benevolent expert nominates you (I think I know the name of the good fairy who proposed my name and I am very grateful to her), and then a jury composed of members from the scientific committee of the FRM selects the winners amongst the nominees. Yves Burrus created this prize in honour of his wife who was living with a neurodegenerative disease.

This prize comes as a very valuable and appreciated acknowledgement of all the work we have carried out over nearly 25 years with my INSERM team in Caen, together with the larger group composed of the Silver Santé Study team over the last 6 years, focused on Alzheimer’s disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and normal ageing. The main goals of the studies are to better understand Alzheimer’s disease, improve diagnosis, but also, importantly, drive prevention.

Dr Gaël Chételat and other laureates (Copyright Julie Bourges)

The Silver Santé Study is focused on prevention. The study aims at evaluating the impact of our lifestyles and of non-pharmacological interventions such as mental training through meditation or English learning, on the well-being and mental health of seniors. Through these studies, we highlighted specific pathological processes involved in Alzheimer’s disease, developed tools to detect the first signs of the disease and distinguish them from normal ageing. We also highlighted relevant lifestyle factors to improve our health and well-being, to better maintain our cognitive functioning with age, and preserve brain health.

All this work would not have been possible without the generous contributions of funds such as those received from the French Foundation for Medical Research as well as the core funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 programme. Thanks must go to members of my team, to whom I am extremely grateful for their overwhelming support and commitment, as well as the Silver Santé Study group for their significant work and research into the mental health and well-being of the ageing population. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to work with you all!

The Lifetime of Experiences Questionnaire (LEQ) is a promising tool for assessing and measuring cognitive reserve in older adults across countries

New research published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience by Silver Santé Study experts, reveals the Lifetime of Experiences Questionnaire (LEQ) proves to be an effective tool across multiple countries.

The Lifetime of Experiences Questionnaire (LEQ) – created and trialled in Australia,2007 – assesses the exposure of complex mental activity throughout life by indirectly capturing cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve is a brain mechanism that promotes better cognitive functioning and reduces the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. It is determined by environmental and genetic factors, nurtured throughout life by exposure to mentally stimulating activities.

The LEQ was initially created by an Australian researcher and, as such, was specifically adapted to the Australian culture only 1. This new study aimed to adapt and harmonise the existing LEQ to other countries and their cultures and to assess the validity of the adapted LEQ by exploring its association with brain and cognition. Silver Santé Study researchers also began to investigate between-country differences in life-course mental activities 2. The study tested the cross-cultural adaptation of the questionnaire on 359 cognitively unimpaired older adults.

Researchers translated and harmonized the LEQ in French, English, Spanish and German. The adapted LEQ was then validated by showing associations with a similar questionnaire and showed a stable internal structure across countries. Lastly, researchers demonstrated that the adapted LEQ was positively associated with global cognition.

The main authors, Eider Arenaza-Urquijo and Valentin Ourry, who led the research said: “Our study demonstrates that the LEQ is a promising tool for assessing the multidimensional construct of cognitive reserve. It can also be used to measure socio-behavioural determinants of cognitive reserve in older adults across countries, but longitudinal studies are needed to further test its clinical effectiveness.”

The full details of the study can be viewed here .

1.            Valenzuela MJ, Sachdev P. Assessment of complex mental activity across the lifespan: development of the Lifetime of Experiences Questionnaire (LEQ). Psychol Med. 2007;37(7):1015-1025. doi:10.1017/S003329170600938X

2.            Ourry V, Marchant NL, Schild AK, et al. Harmonisation and Between-Country Differences of the Lifetime of Experiences Questionnaire in Older Adults. Front Aging Neurosci. 2021;13:740005. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2021.740005

Silver Santé Study Project Coordinator receives prestigious Marie-Paule Burrus Prize at awards ceremony in Paris

Dr Gaël Chételat, Project Coordinator for the Silver Santé Study and Director of research at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), was awarded the Marie-Paul Burrus Prize by the French Foundation for Medical Research (FRM) at the Collège de France, Paris on Monday 15th November 2021.

Dr Gaël Chételat and other laureates (Copyright Julie Bourges)

Over 200 people attended the ceremony, including Mrs. Frédérique Vidal, Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation and Mr. Denis Duverne, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the FRM. The evening was hosted by Sophie Aurenche, journalist and winner of the Claudine Escoffier Lambiotte Prize 2004 and Hervé Chneiweiss, President of the Research Committee of the FRM.

Every year, the Foundation for Medical Research (FRM) recognises the outstanding work of exceptional scientists and researchers by awarding a ‘Grand Prize’ along with several Scientific, Research and Communication awards. This year a total of 10 awards were given.

Dr Chételat was presented with the Marie-Paule Burrus Prize, which was created and awarded by Yves Burrus in honour of his wife, for her continued work on neurodegenerative diseases and specifically her research to promote normal brain ageing and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

On receiving the award Dr Chételat said: “I am thrilled to have received this award. It is a real honour and recognition to everyone in my INSERM team at Cyceron and the Silver Santé Study, who have all been involved in this important field of research.”

Silver Santé Study sleep expert releases new book on sleep disorders

Silver Santé Study researcher and sleep expert, Dr Géraldine Rauchs, has coordinated a new book ‘Sommeil, Fatigue et Troubles Cognitifs’ alongside Claire Vallat-Azouvi and Philippe Azouvi, that delves deep into the effects of sleep and fatigue on cognitive deficits in various conditions.

The book addresses in details sleep disturbances and their impact on daily functioning and cognition in neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, stroke.

Dr Rauchs has been responsible for all investigations into the impact of sleep quality on the brain and cognition in the Silver Santé Study over the last five years and has been delighted to contribute her expertise and knowledge in this field to this new book. Published by De Boeck supérieur, the book is available to purchase as an eBook or hard copy.

https://www.decitre.fr/livres/sommeil-fatigue-troubles-du-sommeil-et-troubles-cognitifs-9782807335776.html#resume

PhD opportunity: Open position for a PhD in Psychology/Neurosciences in Caen, France

Laboratory: Inserm U1237, PhIND, Caen, France (dir : Pr Denis Vivien), Team Multimodal Neuroimaging and Lifestyle in Aging and Alzheimer’s disease (Dr. Gaël Chételat)

PhD Title: Assessing the influence of lifestyle factors on cognition and brain biomarkers of ageing and Alzheimer’s disease

This project will be part of the Medit-Ageing European project, led by Dr. Gaël Chételat (Caen, France). Medit-Aging includes 10 partners from 6 European Countries (France, Belgium, Switzerland, UK, Germany, Spain) and aims at investigating the influence of meditation and foreign language learning on mental health and well-being in the ageing population. In that context, we included ~140 cognitively unimpaired older adults who underwent multimodal neuroimaging (structural, functional MRI, diffusion imaging, FDG- and amyloid PET), detailed behavioral evaluations (cognition, lifestyle, psychoaffective factors) and blood sampling (blood markers and genetics). All exams were done at inclusion and after an 18-month period, during which part of the participants received an intervention (either based on meditation or second language learning); a long-term follow-up of these participants is currently ongoing.

The PhD position is already funded and should start between November and December 2021. This 3-year position follows standard French salaries at Inserm. The student will be a member of the Chételat lab, located in Caen, France. She/he will be in charge of data analyses (behavioral and neuroimaging) and dissemination of the results
(communications in conferences and manuscript publication). She/he will also be involved in the lab activities (which might include data acquisition, data entry, quality control etc.).


Candidate profile and requirements:

  • The candidates must have a MSc in psychology, neuropsychology, neurosciences, or related
  • field.
  • We are looking for highly motivated candidates with scientific curiosity and good teamwork
  • skills
  • Previous experience in the field of aging, Alzheimer’s Disease and/or neuroimaging would be
  • an advantage.
  • Proficiency in written and oral English is required. Speaking French would be an asset.

Application:

Please send a curriculum vitae, academic transcript, a letter on motivation and interests and at least 1 reference letter (2 whenever possible).

Please send your application before October 15th, 2021 to Julie Gonneaud: gonneaud@cyceron.fr


For further information about the Silver Santé Study visit the project website at http://www.silversantestudy.eu or watch the project’s 3-minute film at http://ow.ly/Lhle30lUZqp.

Further info on the Chételat Lab can be found at http://www.chetelat-lab.fr.

Mindfulness may improve cognition in older adults, new review reveals

A new review of evidence published by Silver Santé Study researchers has revealed that mindfulness may provide modest benefits to cognition, particularly among older adults.

The systematic review and meta-analysis, published in Neuropsychology Review, found that, while mindfulness is normally aimed at improving mental health and well-being, it may also provide additional cognitive benefits to brain health.

The researchers reviewed previously published studies of mindfulness, and identified 45 studies that fit their criteria, incorporating a total of 2,238 study participants. Each study tested the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention delivered by a facilitator in a group setting.  Most of the studies involved a certified instructor teaching participants techniques such as sitting meditation, mindful movement and body scan, generally on a weekly basis across six to 12 weeks, while also asking participants to continue the practices on their own time.

The researchers found that overall, mindfulness provided a small but significant benefit to cognition.

Tim Whitfield, of the University College, London, who led the review, said: “The positive effects of mindfulness-based programmes (MBPs) on mental health are already relatively well-established. Here, our findings suggest that a small benefit is also conferred to cognition, at least among older adults.”

Subgroup analysis revealed that the effect was slightly stronger for people over 60, while there was not a significant effect for people under 60.

“This finding is exciting, because we all slow down mentally as we age, while others experience serious brain diseases resulting in dementia. The finding that MBPs might help mental abilities in older adults was thus particularly encouraging,” Tim concludes.

Full details of the study can be viewed here.

European Commission grants project extension following delays due to COVID 19 pandemic

The completion of data analysis and follow-up testing with trial participants will proceed thanks to the European Commission granting a further extension to the Silver Santé project.

The project, which was due to end on December 31st 2020, applied for a second nine-month extension following delays caused by the Covid pandemic.

Project coordinator, Dr Gaël Chételat, said: “We are delighted to hear that our application for a further extension has been granted.  This additional time will enable us to complete the analysis of our data and follow-up tests of volunteers to further strengthen validation of the trial by studying whether the effects of mental training techniques persist over time”.

The Silver Santé study is the longest of its kind, investigating the mental health and well-being of Europe’s ageing population.  It is also investigating whether mental training techniques such as learning a foreign language or making lifestyle changes such as taking up mindfulness or health self-management courses, can help safeguard mental health in later life.

To keep up to date with the progress and outcomes of the project, sign up to receive our quarterly e-newsletter here https://silversantestudy.eu/join-our-mailing-list/

Project experts and students present at world’s largest Alzheimer’s conference

Silver Santé Study experts from several institutions and countries presented their work at this year’s prestigious Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in July.

The conference, which for the first time ever took place as a hybrid event with sessions being held virtually and in- person in Denver, is the largest and most influential international meeting dedicated to advancing dementia science. Each year, AAIC convenes the world’s leading basic science and clinical researchers, next-generation investigators, clinicians and the care research community to share research discoveries that will lead to methods of prevention and treatment and improvements in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Silver Santé Study researchers and Phd students, including those from the University of Caen, Inserm, and UCL in the UK participated in various sessions and presented posters of the study’s most recent findings during the five-day conference.

Project Coordinator, Dr Gaël Chételat, who was among those attending the conference, said: “As the world’s leading Alzheimer’s conference, the AAIC provided us with an invaluable opportunity to share and discuss our most recent findings including studies into the impact of COVID-19 on cognitive reserve and resilience, with the international scientific community.

“It was also extremely interesting to hear from other scientists involved in this important field of research.”

One of several posters presented by Silver Santé Study researchers at this year’s AAIC Conference

New review of evidence by Silver Santé researchers finds Mindfulness-based Programmes may improve cognition in older adults

By Tim Whitfield, Division of Psychiatry, UCL

(Posted 27th September 2021)

TWhitfield

The number of new mindfulness studies being published each year continues to increase. Whilst this offers advantages (e.g. enabling comparisons between studies), it can obscure the bigger picture. This has inspired ‘systematic reviews’ (summaries of all the papers on a topic) and ‘meta-analyses’ (calculations combining results across studies). Silver Santé researchers recently completed a systematic review and meta-analysis to answer the question: ‘Does taking part in a Mindfulness-based Programme boost people’s cognitive abilities?’ [1].

Mindfulness has become a buzzword, with an increasing proportion of the public becoming aware that mindfulness can benefit their mental health. However, researchers have also been investigating whether mindfulness can improve cognitive abilities, for example memory, concentration and planning. Our review ‘zoomed out’ to look at what studies on this question have found out. We focused on a course taught in groups, known as a Mindfulness-based Programme (MBP). MBPs are typically aimed at relative newcomers to mindfulness, are taught by a facilitator over approximately eight weeks, and involve learning practical techniques and theory.

The meta-analysis part of our paper (the part combining data to look at the overall effects) included 45 studies, involving a total of 2,238 participants! Our main result showed that taking part in an MBP resulted in a small boost to cognitive abilities overall. Evaluating different types of cognitive ability separately revealed that there was a specific effect for ‘executive functions’. In plain English, these abilities enable us to manage ourselves and our resources in order to achieve goals.

Next, we divided studies into two groups based on the age of participants. For the younger age group (under 60 years), there was no effect of MBPs overall, whereas for the older group (over 60 years), the effect was stronger than it had been in the original analysis. This finding is exciting, because we all slow down cognitively as we age, while others experience serious brain diseases resulting in dementia. The finding that MBPs might help mental abilities in older adults was thus particularly encouraging.

Whilst this project advances our understanding of the benefits of mindfulness, it’s worth mentioning some limitations. Firstly, whilst we included 45 studies overall, this number was smaller when looking at specific groups and mental abilities. Secondly, when we compared MBPs to other types of group-based programme, we did not find a difference. This hints that taking part in a group programme might be beneficial, rather than mindfulness specifically. Lastly, it was difficult to assess the quality of some of the included studies.

Despite the limitations, this project represents the most comprehensive review on this question to date, and will steer this field of research going forward. We already know that mindfulness benefits wellbeing, and now researchers are unpacking the positive effects on cognitive abilities, too.

Reference:

[1] T. Whitfield, T. Barnhofer, R. Acabchuk, A. Cohen, M. Lee, M. Schlosser, E. M. Arenaza‑Urquijo, A. Böttcher, W. Britton, N. Coll‑Padros, F. Collette, G. Chételat, S. Dautricourt, H. Demnitz‑King, T. Dumais, O. Klimecki, D. Meiberth, I. Moulinet, T. Müller, E. Parsons, L. Sager, L. Sannemann, J. Scharf, A.‑K. Schild, E. Touron, M. Wirth, Z. Walker, E. Moitra, A. Lutz, S. W. Lazar, D. Vago, N. L. Marchant. The Effect of Mindfulness‑based Programs on Cognitive Function in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta‑analysis. Neuropsychology Review. 2021 Aug 4. doi: 10.1007/s11065-021-09519-y.

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