CIGEV, area gerontology: Research on Lifespan, Multidirectionality and Plasticity – Director: Matthias Kliegel

Research group leader: Nicola Ballhausen

In this research group, we focus on the development of cognitive control processes in various contexts. Context can be understood in different ways, which also represents three different angles of the research group.

1. Experimental studies on cognitive control development – how do different task contexts affect age effects?

This angle of research has a particular focus on the development of prospective memory (remembering delayed intentions) in older adulthood. The aim of our work is to experimentally investigate how different task-specific characteristics affect the recruitment of cognitive control processes, and consequently how these processes affects age-related prospective memory performance.


2. Context effects on cognition and the brain – how do particular lifetime circumstances affect cognitive and brain functioning?

In this part of our research group, we investigate the effects of specific life contexts such as socio-economic status or stress (acute or chronic) on cognition and brain health, using among others pharmacological and magnetic resonance imaging methods.


3. Aging research in a digital context – how can we use technology to study real life cognition?

The third part of our research tries to use the new opportunities that are offered by technology to study cognition in the daily life of older adults (e.g., via sensor technologies, smartphones or experience sampling). A second perspective is using technology in an applied clinical context, i.e., Dementia care, to support and improve life of people with Dementia.


Research group leader: Ruxandra Oana Ciobanu


Older persons are perceived and portrayed as a homogeneous population, and there is little acknowledgement in policy and even in studies of the internal variability within this group. There are people with an experience of migration, others who have migrated internally within a country, as well as persons who have never moved from some small rural communities, there are varied life courses, all of these leading to distinct situations in old age.

Furthermore, there is a constant increase in the population of older migrants, projections showing that this population will more than double in the next decade. Older migrants are marginal in research both in the field of gerontology and in migration studies.

Considering these shortcomings in scholarship, the research group Diversity in ageing societies has the following aims:

  1. Bridge the fields of gerontology and migration / mobility studies
  2. Expand the knowledge base on older migrant populations
  3. Focus on the heterogeneity of older populations across and within groups
  4. Study the elderly in a life-course perspective

To advance knowledge on diversity, we aim to conduct comparative research among different elderly populations. Some examples are the following:

  1. Older migrants from different countries residing in the same country of destination
  2. Older migrants and older natives in Switzerland
  3. Older migrants and those who stayed in the country of origin and did not directly engage in migration

The topics on which research will focus are:

  • Transnationalism and mobility and how these are related to vulnerability
  • Resilience in elderly populations • Social networks and social support in old age
  • Care arrangements in old age
  • Loneliness


The research conducted in this group has a mixed-methods approach.

First, projects draw on qualitative data, particularly in-depth interviews with various actors.

Second, projects analyse quantitative data, among these the VLV 1 and VLV 2 survey.


  1. Transnational Ageing among Older Migrants and Natives: A Strategy to Overcome Vulnerability (Professorship Grant, Swiss National Science Foundation)
  2. Vulnerability in Old Age: A Comparative Approach (Marie Heim-Vögtlin Grant, Swiss National Science Foundation)
  3. Ageing Migrants’ Well-being: The Structuring of Local Welfare Provisions at the Intersection of Public, Private, Third Sector and the Family (Marie Curie Intra-European Individual Fellowship, European Commission)


Ciobanu, R. O., & Fokkema, T. (forthcoming 2019). The role of religion in protecting older Romanian migrants from loneliness. In Ciobanu, R. O., T. Fokkema, & M. Nedelcu, Ageing as a Migrant: Vulnerabilities, Agency and Policy Implications (1st Edition). Oxford: Routledge.

Ciobanu, R. O., Fokkema, T., & Nedelcu, M. (forthcoming 2019). Ageing as a Migrant: Vulnerabilities, Agency and Policy Implications (1st Edition). Oxford: Routledge.

Ciobanu, R. O., Fokkema, T., & Nedelcu, M. (2017). Ageing as a migrant: vulnerabilities, agency and policy implications. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(2), 164–181. doi:10.1080/1369183X.2016.1238903

Ciobanu, R. O., & Hunter, A. (2017). Older migrants and (im)mobilities of Ageing: An introduction. Population, Space and Place, 23(5). doi:10.1002/psp.2075

Ciobanu, R. O., & Fokkema, T. (2017). The role of religion in protecting older Romanian migrants from loneliness. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(2), 199–217. doi:10.1080/1369183X.2016.1238905

Ciobanu, R. O., & Hunter, A. (2017). Guest editors for the special issue “Older Migrants: (Im)mobilities of Ageing”, Population, Space and Place, 23(5).

Ciobanu, R. O., Fokkema, T., & Nedelcu, M. (2017). Guest editors for the special issue “Ageing in a Foreign Country: Vulnerabilities, Challenges and Policy Implications”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(2).

Nedelcu, M., & Ciobanu, R.-O. (2016). Les migrations des Roms roumains en Europe : politiques d’inclusion, stratégies de distinction et (dé)construction de frontières identitaires. Revue européenne des migrations internationals, 32(1), 7–17. doi:10.4000/remi.7549

Nedelcu, M., Ciobanu, R.-O. & de Gourcy, C. (2016). Guest editors for the special issue “Les migrations des Roms roumains en Europe : politiques d’inclusion, stratégies de distinction et (dé)construction de frontières identitaires”. Revue européenne des migrations internationals, 32(1).

Research group leader: Delphine Fagot


  1. Investigating the respective influence of engagement in physical or leisure activities on cognitive performances, well being and physical/mental health.
  2. Investigating the moderation/mediation role of physical activity on attentional resources decrements with ageing.
  3. Investigating the relationships between cardiac stability, postural stability and cognitive stability during ageing and the changes in these relationships with le level of physical activity.
  4. Exploring the relationships between gender and physical activity and their effects on postural stability and cognitive performances.
  5. Characterizing inter-individual differences in cognitive performance, postural control and cardiac activity.
  6. Quantifying intra-individual variability at these different levels of analyses, and their dynamical relationships.
  7. Revisiting the concepts of (cognitive) reserve, successful or optimal ageing.


Studies underwent in our lab focus mainly on the comparison of young adults, middle age and older adults considering different levels of analyses and different times scales. The conceptual framework underlying our work is based on experimental-cognitive, lifespan developmental and differentialist approaches within a bio-cultural co-constructivism perspective.

One particular interest concerns the study of (inter- and intra-individual) variability as an agent and a consequence of adult development.

To fulfill the main research goals, we use a combination of questionnaires, cognitive tasks, and  physiological measures. Questionnaires help to quantify and quality physical (and leisure) activity over the life course and in the more recent time period (last 6 months). Questionnaires are also used to characterize personality traits and states, and affects. Reaction times tasks evaluating executive/attentional abilities are used with varying levels of difficulty/complexity. Physiological measures are recorded dynamically for cardiac rhythm and postural control during the realization of cognitive tasks.


PAAL-CH: Physical Activity & Ageing Lab for Cognitive Health

Research group leader: Alexandra Hering


In everyday life, we have to constantly coordinate and deal with multiple tasks during the day to achieve our goals and plans. In my research, I am interested in understanding how goal-directed behavior develops across the lifespan.

Central research questions are: How does goal-directed behavior, in particular intentional remembering (i.e. prospective memory) develop across the lifespan and which aspects explain the raise during childhood and the later decrease during older adulthood.

Besides understanding the development of goal-directed behavior, we are also interested in studying cognitive plasticity. Central research questions are: How can we improve cognitive abilities or compensate for decreases with the help of different cognitive interventions and trainings.


Our research uses measures on the behavioral and neural level. We use EEG (electroencephalography) to study the neural processes of intentional memory.

We apply a lifespan approach, thus we are interested in differences in children, adolescents, younger and older adults.


  1. Neural correlates of prospective memory
  2. Cognitive Training and Plasticity
  3. The interplay of working memory and prospective memory across the lifespan
  4. From lab to life
  5. Age-NT – Altern in der Gesellschaft: Nationales Innovationsnetzwerk / Vieillir dans la société: réseau d’innovation national – Cluster Dementia
  6. Jobs4U – Improving Job Search

Research group leader: Andreas Ihle


This research group investigates cognitive health and well-being from a life course perspective. Specifically, in the first project we study the accumulation of cognitive reserve through multiple sources of cognitive stimulation over the life course and its detailed role for preserving cognitive health in later life. In the second project we examine how different factors across the life course enable individuals to maintain a relatively high level of well-being, even in very old age. One major focus in these projects is to investigate how the detailed processes leading to sustained cognitive functioning and well-being in old age vary by individual difference characteristics and context factors.


  1. Life Course Pathways of Cognitive Reserve
  2. Life Course Mechanisms of Well-Being in Old Age

Research groups are presented here above. Projects within these groups may belong to various areas. You can view the projects either by research groups (links above), or by research areas (left column or image below).

Schéma pôle gérontologie Healthy Aging Digital Aging Vulnerable Aging Cognitive Aging CIGEVcité CIGEVcité