Centre for Human Psychopharmacology

Neurocognitive ageing

Our studies aim to understand the complexity of the ageing process on the brain by identifying the fundamental aspects of neurocognitive change
 
Browse our research exploring the potential of natural substances and pharmaceuticals in treating the symptoms of neurocognitive ageing.

Alterations in cerebral blood flow across the adult lifespan

This study investigated differences in blood flow in the brain and cognition between older and younger people.

Studying age differences in blood flow may help researchers to better understand how the brain changes with age, which could lead to greater understanding of age-related cognitive decline in memory and thought processes.

This project invited participants aged between 55-80 and in general good health. Researchers studied the effects of ageing through brain imaging (MRI) and computerised cognitive tests. Cardiovascular measures were also recorded.

This study is now complete.

Contact

Sarah Catchlove
t: +61 3 9214 4975
e: scatchlove@swinburne.edu.au 

Cardiovascular function and age-associated cognitive decline

There are many examples of poor cardiovascular function affecting cognitive function. An extreme stroke can cause permanent cognitive and physical disability. Smaller and seemingly benign cardiovascular changes may contribute to age-related cognitive decline. Research suggests that improved cardiovascular function through supplementation with natural medicine may also improve cognitive functioning.

This project aimed to understand the impact of cardiovascular function including arterial stiffness, blood flow, endothelial function and other indices on age-related cognitive decline.

Through a series of studies, we investigated:

  • the link between cardiovascular functioning and cognitive decline and
  • cardiovascular function as a possible mechanism for improvement of cognition following supplementation with natural medicine.

These studies are now complete.

Contact

Andrew Pipingas
t: +61 3 9214 5215
e: apipingas@swinburne.edu.au

Lifestyle intervention: independent living and aged care

This research investigated the effects of an evidence-based diet and exercise program on cognitive abilities, mood, general health and perceived wellness.

The trial ran for six months with ethical approval for future follow-up assessments.

Over 200 people aged 60-90 years and living independently took part. Participants were randomly allocated to one of four groups:

  • Group 1: Diet change to reflect a greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet
  • Group 2: Exercise change to walk 30 to 40 minutes every second day
  • Group 3: Combined diet and exercise change
  • Group 4: Control group with no diet or exercise change

Assessments took take place at baseline, three months and six months. This study is now complete.

Contact

Greg Kennedy
t: +61 3 9214 4922
e: gkennedy@swinburne.edu.au

 

Lifestyle intervention: Measuring age-associated neurocognitive decline

The aim of this study was to understand neurocognitive ageing across the lifespan. Previous studies have shown that cognitive ageing is not a unitary process. Instead, specific areas of the brain decline more rapidly than others. These areas have served as useful constructs for assessing improvements in cognition with nutraceutical intervention.

A major outcome of this work is the Swinburne University Computerised Cognitive Ageing Battery (SUCCAB). This battery of computerised cognitive tests proved reliable on test-retest reliability, valid on decline across the lifespan and had a high construct validity on similar tests.

The tests that showed the greatest change across the lifespan also appeared to have potential to improve with supplementation of natural medicine.

Other completed and ongoing studies have used brain electrical and other neuroimaging methodologies to assess spatial-temporal patterns of neural activity in response to the performance of cognitive tasks. In particular, the Steady State Topography (SST) technique has been used extensively by our group. Again, these methods have proven useful in the assessment of response to nutraceutical supplementation.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

Andrew Pipingas
t: +61 3 9214 5215
e: apipingas@swinburne.edu.au

 

Cognitive ageing, nutrition and neurogenesis (CANN)

This study is investigating whether combining a fatty acid blend and flavonoids could improve brain function and memory.

Participants aged over 55 with mild memory complaints are consuming a fatty acid blend (fish oil capsule) and flavonoids (chocolate drops) daily over a 12-month period. Over four testing sessions, they are completing a series of cognition and memory tests. Some participants are also attending two optional brain imaging sessions.

This study is currently underway.

Contact

CANN team
e: cann@swinburne.edu.au

Longvida curcumin and health in older adults

Tumeric has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. Curcumin, the compound in turmeric that gives it its bright yellow colour, is thought to be the source of these health benefits.

In recent years, curcumin has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and many other valuable properties. It has been suggested that curcumin may enhance mood and mental function, yet further research is needed to investigate these potential benefits.

This study aimed to explore the effects of a curcumin supplementation on mental function, mood and health in older adults.

Participants were aged 60–85 and some had experienced age related decline in their memory or mental function. A daily supplementation was given over four weeks and participants were tested on a range of cognitive tasks as well as mood and general health.

In a subset of participants, a second stage of this study investigated the effects of curcumin supplementation on brain activity using state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

Kate Cox
t: +61 3 9214 8168
e: kcox@swinburne.edu.au

Phospholipid intervention for cognitive ageing reversal

One of the most prominent and debilitating consequences of human ageing is the cognitive decline that impacts learning and memory. There is an increased awareness of the possibility that dietary modification can alter the course of age-related cognitive decline.

Previous research suggests that a class of lipids derived from milk called phospholipids, which include phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine, may benefit brain health, particularly during ageing.

This study aimed to identify whether a daily intake of phospholipids could be effective in improving cognition in older individuals who are experiencing memory difficulties.

Participants aged 55 and over with good general health took the supplement daily for six months. During several test sessions, researchers assessed participants' brain function, biomarkers associated with oxidated stress and inflammation, and cardiovascular health.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

e: plicar@swinburne.edu.au

Memory and Brain Imaging Study

This study investigated hippocampal structure and function in cognitive aging.

Participants were aged over 55 years, in general good health and had no memory concerns or diagnosis of dementia.

Participants attended two study sessions and underwent a MEG and MRI scan.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

The CANN team
e: cann@swin.edu.au
Rebecca King 
t: +61 3 9214 5861

Post prandial cognitive and vascular effects of DHA-rich Omega-3 powder

Researchers at Swinburne are currently investigating the effects of a DHA-rich omega-3 powder on cognition, mood and cardiovascular health. This study involves three visits to the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology within Swinburne's Hawthorn campus over a 1 month period.

You may be eligible for this study if you*:

  • are male, aged between 40-60 years
  • are in good general health
  • are a non-smoker
  • have no history of other significant medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, neurological conditions
  • have no fish or milk allergies.

* Please note there are additional criteria to participate in the study.

Testing sessions involve computerised cognitive testing and mood questionnaires. Participants will be compensated with $150 for their time.

Note: this trial has finished recruitment and study findings will be available soon.

Contact

Jeff Reddan
t: +61 3 9214 8259
e: omega3@swin.edu.au

Memory and Attention Supplement Trial (MAST)

This study aims to address the cognitive and mood effects of Swisse Ultiboost Memory + Focus in individuals aged 40 – 65 years. The supplement contains a number of B vitamins, as well as herbal components; Ginkgo Biloba and Bacopa Monnieri. In previous trials of supplements with similar doses of B vitamins, our research group have found improvements in tasks involving memory. Trials involving Ginkgo Biloba and Bacopa Monnieri have also found potential enhancing effects for cognition due to their antioxidant properties. Further research is currently needed regarding whether this ongoing combination is effective in improving memory and attention. It is also unknown how dietary habits can influence supplementation. Therefore, we characterised our sample of participants through dietary assessments and measuring blood biomarkers. This will help us to understand how dietary habits may influence cognition, mood and the efficacy of the supplement.

We measured the effects of Swisse Ultiboost Memory + Focus against a placebo by evaluating cognitive and mood tests. Blood samples were also analysed to assess levels of different nutrients in the blood as well as biomarkers of inflammation. A subset of participants participated in a neuroimaging component using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). These MRI scans will allow us to assess the effects of Swisse Ultiboost Memory + Focus on the brain.

Recruitment for this trial is now complete.

Contact

Lauren Young
t: +61 3 9214 3793
e: laurenyoung@swinburne.edu.au or MAST_study_chp@swinburne.edu.au

ACESO Healthy Databank Study

This project is a collaborative effort between Australian research and university institutes. The study aimed to create a broad databank of neurophysiological, cognitive, and physiological information from healthy adults to compare against psychiatric and physical illness groups. Findings from this project serve to help better understand disorders like Schizophrenia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Major Depression. Findings will also help guide future treatments. 

ACESO collected the following data:

  • health and lifestyle information such as diet, sleep quality, physical activity, life stressors
  • personality
  • brain scans 
  • memory and cognition through computer-based cognitive exercises
  • non-identifying genetics
  • gut bacteria profiling.

Contact

Kevin Savage
t: +61 3 9214 8267
e: aceso@swinburne.edu.au