Effectiveness of cognitive training in ageing: an individual-centred approach
The utility of so called ‘brain training’ techniques for improving cognitive abilities is widely debated. Claims that they have a positive impact on structural and/or functional integrity of the brain are reported in the media, but are typically unsupported by sound empirical evidence. To date, few studies have focused on neurologically healthy older adults, instead examining cognitive training in neurological patients or in those with subclinical conditions such as mild cognitive impairment. Furthermore, those studies that have explored effects in healthy older adults report outcomes with limited or questionable ecological validity. For example, some studies demonstrate improved working memory function on trained tasks, but with little evidence for a transfer effect beyond the training. Moreover, to date, studies have not comprehensively explored the role of participant characteristics (such as age, education, intelligence, employment status, etc.) in the effectiveness of cognitive training. Analysis of potential interactions between individual differences on a range of cognitive and socio-demographic variables and the efficacy of particular methods may provide the basis for a more fine-grained and targeted understanding of the potential benefits of cognitive training for given individuals.
To address the gap in the literature, the successful applicant will analyse the role of baseline cognitive and socio-demographic characteristics in the effectiveness of cognitive training in healthy older adults. We intend this work to underpin the development of more effective, evidence-led interventions using individually-tailored training packages to maximise the likelihood of positive outcomes in the neurologically healthy, ageing population.
This PhD project will be undertaken at our Cambridge campus and supervised by Professor Peter Bright (School of Psychology and Sport Science in the Faculty of Science and Engineering) and Dr Francesca Panin (School of Allied Health in the Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care).
How to apply
To apply, you’ll need: A first class bachelor’s degree or a 2:1 bachelor’s degree and a masters at merit level or above. Equivalent awards will be considered. Qualifications must be relevant for the particular studentship you are applying for.