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

Lifetime Social Adversity and the Ageing Brain


The project “Lifetime social adversity and the ageing brain” focusses on the impact of lifetime socio-economic status on age-related cognitive performance and brain health. It aims at creating and validating a generative model for the estimation and prediction of the relationship between lifetime social adversity and age-related cognitive decline.

Specifically, the project addresses the following objectives:

  1. Building knowledge about the relationship between lifetime social adversity and ageing-associated cognitive decline from existing large-scale cohorts.
  2. Creating a generative model of the effects of social adversity and social mobility on brain ageing.
  3. Validating the generative model using data from a prospective study combining data on cognitive performance, social adversity and brain anatomy.
  4. Providing robust biomarkers for detection of lifespan time windows that are “sensitive” to social adversity interventions with potential benefit to cognition and brain health in advanced age.


Statistical dependencies between socio-economic status and cognitive performance are investigated using already available data from two Swiss population-based cohorts (VLV and Cohorte Lausanne - CoLaus). Building up on this, more fine-grained and specific data from homogenous subgroups, stratified according to their social trajectories from early to adult life, will be collected using a well-balanced mix between established and novel magnetic resonance imaging techniques to quantitatively characterize the effects of ageing, cognition and socio-economic status while monitoring individual’s whole-brain anatomy.