2022 closes the formal funded period for Silver Sante Study but the work continues thanks to new additional funding

The Silver Santé Study reaches the end of its official European funded period on 31st March 2022, more than six years since it began in January 2016, but follow up testing with study participants and analysis continues thanks to additional funding provided by the “Label d’Excellence” from Région Normandie. 

The project is the longest ever study of both meditation and foreign language learning and is the first research programme to examine the emotional aspects of ageing and mental health.

Two clinical trials were established and conducted by the Study’s expert researchers in six European countries, assessing the impact of brain training techniques and lifestyle changes on the mental health and well-being of older adults.  Over 280 individuals participated in the two studies, made up of 147 patients with existing subjective cognitive decline, 137 healthy members of the general public over the age of 65 and 27 expert meditators have been successfully recruited by our project partners.

Investigations over the course of the study have enabled the study’s researchers to test whether mindfulness improves cognition in older adults and if meditation could help reduce age-related brain changes as well as cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Furthermore, our expert researchers have successfully created and implemented a novel task to measure brain activations related to carry-over effects of negative feelings to periods of rest; validated a short questionnaire to measure compassion for others and illustrated the positive benefits of physical activity and meditation on brain health as we age. Further research on the impact restrictions imposed by Covid-19 and specifically the effects on emotional resilience between lockdowns in older adults has also been undertaken.  Psycho-affective factors such as sleep, physical activity and self-reflection have also been considered.

Throughout the project, Silver Santé Study researchers have shared their knowledge, research and expertise attending high profile international public events including the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF), the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), as well as hosting and co-organizing events with other projects, including the ‘Brain health across the lifespan’ public conference in November 2019.

Additional analysis and follow up testing will continue past the project’s official end to further efforts in this important area of research.

The project’s coordinator, Dr Gael Chetelat explains: “Our experts are committed to continuing research to further all efforts to improve the mental health of our population and to mitigate the risk of developing mental health conditions such as dementia.

We are extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed to our study including the partner institutions, postgraduate student researchers, all our trial volunteers, expert meditators, and language teachers.  Their input has been invaluable.”

Further results and research papers are expected to be published over the coming months. Keep up to date with the latest developments by signing up for our newsletter and following our social media channels on Twitter and Linked In.

The association between physical activity and brain health partly differs between men and women

New research by Silver Santé researchers, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 2022 investigated the association between physical activity and markers of brain integrity in older men and women.

Consistently with previous works, both from the Silver Santé Study consortium and other labs, the results revealed that older adults engaging in physical activities have greater brain integrity. More importantly, this study showed that these associations differed, at least in part, between men and women.

Thus, while physical activity was associated with greater cerebral glucose metabolism in both men and women, some effects were sex-specific. More specifically, higher levels of physical activity were associated with greater brain perfusion (a measure of brain function) in women while in men, it was associated with lower levels of amyloid burden (a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease).  This suggests that, while physical activity has beneficial effects both in men and women, part of these effects might be attributed to the involvement of distinct mechanisms in the two groups. Further research will be needed to unveil these sex-specific mechanisms.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Julie Gonneaud of INSERM said: “These results add to a growing literature suggesting the importance of studying sex differences in neurosciences.

They also have potential implications for clinical trials, suggesting that sex-specificities should be considered both in the design of interventions and when studying the response to these interventions.” she concluded.

Full details of the study can be found here.

Silver Santé researchers to present at World’s largest Alzheimer’s conference

Silver Santé student researchers from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research –  INSERM team U1237 in Caen directed by Gael Chetelat – are preparing to present their work at this year’s prestigious Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC).

The conference, which will take place as a hybrid event with sessions being held virtually and in- person in San Diego, is the largest and most influential international meeting dedicated to advancing dementia science.  Held annually, the conference brings together the World’s leading basic scientists, clinicians, and the care research community to share the latest research discoveries that lead to methods of prevention, treatment, and improvements in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

PhD student Francesca Felisatti of the University of Caen will present her work entitled “Interaction between APOE4 and lifestyle on neuroimaging biomarkers and cognition in cognitively unimpaired older adults” supervised by Julie Gonneaud (Inserm U1237).

Cassandre Palix, also a PhD student from the University of Caen supervised by Géraldine Poisnel (Inserm U1237), will discuss findings from recent studies into allostatic load (the cumulative burden of chronic stress and life events) and its association with emotional and behavioural responses in the brain, in cognitively unimpaired older adults.

The AAIC conference will take place between 31st July and 4th August 2022.  For further information and to register visit: https://www.alz.org/aaic/overview.asp

One of several posters presented by Silver Santé Study researchers at last year’s AAIC conference

Final round of follow-up visits start for Wave 2 and 3 Age-Well participants

In the last few weeks, Wave 2 participants in our Age Well clinical trial were invited to attend the Cyceron Centre at Caen for their fourth and final round of examinations.

Project Manager, Dr Géraldine Poisnel, from Inserm Team U1237 at Cyceron, says: “These final rounds of follow-up tests will allow us to start the analysis of the long-term effects on the mental health and well-being of the ageing population in Europe.”

The 35 participants, all aged 65+, have been helping our expert researchers learn more about the mental health & well being of 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.

The visits were previously postponed due to concerns about the safety and well-being of the participants due to Covid-19.

Wave 3 participants will close the study with their follow-up visits expected to take place between September and November 2022.

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

Project Coordinator, Dr Gaël Chételat, concludes, “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have volunteered in this study, kindly devoting their time to help us learn more about mental health in the ageing population.”

Volunteers taking part in an English class as part of the Age Well trial

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 April 15th 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/

Silver Santé Study Sleep experts to speak at French conference as part of International Brain Awareness Week

Silver Santé Study sleep experts will speak on 17 March at the Pôle des Formations et de Recherche en Santé (PFRS), CAEN, as part of Brain Week coordinated in France by the Society for Neuroscience.

Brain Week runs from Monday 14th to 20th March and is an international event organized in one hundred countries and more than 120 cities across France.  It aims to raise public awareness of the importance of brain research and is an opportunity for researchers to share their latest findings with the public and present the challenges in this field of research.

PhD student Pierre Champetier and Dr Géraldine Rauchs will be participating in the conference entitled ‘Sleep and brain pathologies: from the laboratory to the patient’s bed.’  The aim of the event is to review the impact of sleep disorders on the emergence of cerebral pathologies, with a specific focus on the links between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease.  There will also be a discussion on how it is possible to improve the quality of sleep to promote healthy ageing.

To find out more about this and view the full programme of events visit: https://www.semaineducerveau.fr/manifestation/sommeil-et-pathologies-cerebrales-du-laboratoire-au-lit-du-patient/

Older adults participating in physical activity have cardiovascular benefits resulting in improved brain health

New research by Silver Santé experts reveals that older adults participating in physical activity have cardiovascular benefits, through the maintenance of a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and insulin.  This results in greater structural brain integrity and thus improved brain health.

The research assessed whether the association between physical activity and multimodal neuroimaging is impacted by cardiovascular risk factors across 134 cognitively unimpaired adults aged 65+, from the Age-Well study.

Results showed that the association between physical activity and Gray Matter (GM) volume is impacted by changes in insulin and BMI.

Lead author of the paper, Francesca Felisatti from the University of Caen said “Our study has strong implications in helping us to further understand how physical activity affects brain health as we age.  It may also help to develop strategies to prevent, or delay, age-related brain decline.”

The paper has currently been accepted by Neurology and is due to be published later in the Spring.

Mindfulness and Repetitive Negative Thinking (RNT): their associations with markers of brain health

Silver Santé Study researchers from University College London (UCL) will present at this year’s prestigious AD/PD™ 2022 International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases and related neurological disorders 15th – 20th March 2022 (online/Barcelona).

The conference, which will take place as a hybrid event with sessions being held virtually and in-person in Barcelona, attracts international medical and scientific professionals worldwide. Held annually, the AD/PD™ conference combines distinct neurodegenerative diseases in one setting, examining their similarities and differences and focusing on the latest advances in science and therapy that will lead to methods of prevention, treatment, and improvements in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases and related neurological disorders.

PhD candidate, Tim Whitfield, will present findings on the effect of a mindfulness-based versus health self-management intervention on cognitive performance in older adults with Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD), based on the Silver Santé SCD-Well randomized control trial.  The trial recruited 147 older adults with SCD from memory clinics in four European countries to take part in an 8-week mindfulness or health self-management intervention, with a 6-month follow-up.

Harriet Demnitz-King, also a PhD candidate at UCL, will discuss research on the association between Repetitive Negative Thinking (RNT) and blood-based biomarkers of stress, inflammation, and neurodegeneration.  Findings suggest that RNT is positively associated with a marker of neurodegeneration but not with markers of stress or inflammation.

Former MSc student at UCL, Rachel Morse, will present findings on the association of RNT with cognitive and physical health in older adults at risk of dementia.  Research undertaken as part of the project suggests that RNT was associated with worse self-reported physical and cognitive health in older adults. 

Dr Natalie Marchant, who led the SCD-Well trial and supervised the research projects that will be presented at the conference, says: “The AD/PD™ 2022 International Conference provides an invaluable opportunity for us to share our Silver Santé Study findings with international researchers, scientists and clinicians. We look forward to hearing from other scientists about their own most recent findings in this important field of research.”

For further information and to register for the AD/PD™ conference visit https://adpd.kenes.com/

Meeting with Age-Well trial participants a huge success

Over 90% of volunteers involved in the Age-Well trial attended an in-person meeting held on 18th January at the Alexis de Tocqueville library in Caen.  The meeting was an opportunity to provide the volunteers with an update on the progress of the study and share time together following the long periods of confinement caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.   

Project Coordinator, Dr Gaël Chételat, who helped organize the meeting said: “It was wonderful to be able to meet in person again and to share our progress and findings with the volunteers on our studies into mental health and well-being in the ageing population.  We are extremely grateful to them all for devoting their time, energy and commitment to helping us discover more about how we can safeguard mental health in later life.”

Results from the Age-Well trial are expected to be published later this year.

Age Well volunteers attending the meeting with Silver Santé Study researchers

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!

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