Research topic

Cognitive Health and Dementia

Brain scans on a tablet screen laying beside patient

Cognitive health, how well we think, learn and remember, reflect and shape many dimensions of health and wellbeing across the lifespan. Dementia, the loss of cognitive health, significantly compromises the life and activities of individuals’ and their families, and is growing public health priority. We conduct diverse research to understand risk and protective factors for cognitive health and dementia, early detection of cognitive decline and dementia risk, health and social care considerations for persons living with dementia, the lived experience of persons living with dementia among underserved and vulnerable populations, interventions to promote health in the context of dementia, and policies surrounding dementia care. We employ diverse approaches, including qualitative interviewing; performance, behavioural, and functional assessments; and analysis of survey and epidemiologic data – in service of promoting cognitive health, mitigating dementia risk, and enhancing quality of life among persons living with dementia.

Research projects

Psychosocial and Health-Related Influences on Response Time Inconsistency in Old Age

Project aims: To identify potentially modifiable psychosocial- and somatic-, and health-related risk factors for increased Response Time Inconsistency (RTI) and associated dementia risk. RTI is an important behavioural indicator of normal cognitive function, cognitive aging, and early indicator of dementia, as well as brain and central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction.

Team members

The role of daily stress processes in social gradients in health, cognitive aging and dementia risk throughout midlife and old age

Project aims: To examine immediate, prolonged, and the accumulation of affective responses to daily stressors as mechanisms linking daily stress to social gradients in health and cognitive impairment risk throughout midlife and later life.

Team members

  • Prof. Robert Stawski, Deputy Director of Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing, University of Essex
  • Prof. Kelly Cichy - Associate Professor of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences, Kent State University
  • Prof. David M. Almeida - Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
  • Dr. Dakota D. Witzel - Assistant lecturer in Adult Development and Aging, Pennsylvania State University
  • Prof. David Batty - Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London

Profiles of Cognitive Health: Exploring Psychosocial Modulators of Risk for Cognitive Impairment and Dementia throughout Midlife and Old Age

Project aims: To develop novel profiles of cognitive health to identify individuals at risk for and cognitive impairment and evaluate social inequalities and modifiable psychosocial (e.g., control beliefs, stress, social support, discrimination) protective/vulnerability factors associated with at-risk cognitive health profiles.

Team members


Improving assessment of subjective memory impairment for detecting Alzheimer's disease: A coordinated analysis in two measurement burst studies

Project aims: To determine what aspects of memory problems, such as their emotional or functional consequences, are better indicators of future cognitive decline, which would allow us to develop better tools to identify individuals who are at risk for poor cognitive outcomes, including dementia.

Team members

  • Prof. Robert Stawski - Deputy Director of the Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing, University of Essex
  • Prof. Jacqueline Mogle - Associate Professor, Clemson University
  • Prof. Jennifer Turner - Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Hawaii at Hilo
  • Sakshi Bhargava - Senior Programer and Data Analyst of Patient-Centred Outcomes Assessment group, RTI-HS
  • Prof. Nikki Hill - Associate Professor at the Centre of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, Pennsylvania State University
  • Prof. David D. Almeida - professor of Human Development and Aging Studies, Pennsylvania State University

Dementia Strategy Analysis

Project aims: To make a comparative analysis of dementia strategies across selected countries of Europe. To examine the extent to which:

  1. the dementia strategy of England, and
  2. the dementia strategy of Essex, Southend and Thurrock

are informed by the Global Action Plan 2017-2025. To examine the provisions for dementia care in the Global Action Plan and dementia strategies of England, and Essex, Southend and Thurrock.

Protective Factors of Dementia

Project aims: To identify the modifiable risk factors, especially, psychosocial and behavioural, that might have a bearing on onset of dementia. To elicit the relative severity of these factors on onset of dementia.

Team members

  • Dr Smruti Bulsari - Senior Research Officer in the School of Health and Social Care, University of Essex
  • Prof. Robert Stawski - Deputy Director of the Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing, University of Essex
  • Prof. Mariachiara Di Cesare - Director of the Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing, University of Essex