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

Physical Activity & Ageing Lab for Cognitive Health (PAAL-CH)

Ageing involves major changes, particularly in cognitive abilities and physical health. It is well established that processing speed and executive functions decline with advancing age during adulthood. Inhibition processing seems to have a particular influence in cognitive performance in a variety of cognitive domains. Falling is also a common event for older adults, which can result to serious consequences (e.g., hospitalization, loss of functional autonomy, injury-related death). However, engaging in physical activities can influence positively cognitive performance and moderate cognitive decline. For example, the practice of a regular physical activity maintains or improves cognition, executive functions and particularly in inhibitory tasks performance. Moreover, physical activity seems to reduce falls and/or fear of falling. The physical activity can help to reduce falls since we will increase strength and postural stability. Results from studies investigating the link between physical activity and the risk of falls are inconsistent, suggesting that physical activity alone does not necessarily imply a decrease in falls.


  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.