Project: Individualized cognitive, affective and social enhancement in nutritional interventions for longevity and well-being

Acronym iCASE
Duration 01/04/2016 - 31/07/2019
Project Topic Social cognition is a important cognitive domain substantially influencing social functioning, well-being and health. Particularly in the elderly, social cognition are an important factor for successful aging and vitality.However, there is evidence that social cognition show a decline in higher ages. On the biological level, there is some evidence that social cognition is associated with serotonin, a neurochemical strongly associated with the processing of social and affective information. Healthy aging is accompanied by substantial losses in serotonin, which might correspond with the changes in social cognition and mood. We suggest that food supplementations (tryptophan and probiotics) acting on serotonin may slow down, and (partially) compensate for the negative consequences associated with the loss of serotonergic supplies in aging, and consequently, impairments in social and affective processing. Using a multidisciplinary and translational approach, we propose conducting broader studies to test whether these food supplements promote (1) moral judgments, (2) metalizing and (3) mood in healthy aging populations. Given that serotonin level seems to vary between individuals and that the genetic setup of an individual matters more the older he or she gets, we expect these individual differences (i.e., genetic differences) to affect the degree to which individuals can benefit from our nutritional intervention. We assume our food intervention to enhance social and affective cognition as compared to the intake of a placebo—but presumably to different degrees (e.g., dependent on genetic differences). Neurochemical analyses, brain imaging, epigenetics (changes in gene expression triggered by the environment) will be used to (a) study and understand the mechanisms underlying the interactions between brain, nutritional intervention, and social behavior; (b) explain individual differences in performance and reactivity to the nutritional intervention (c) test whether the nutritional intervention provoke epigenetic responses. If successful, this approach can provide an important step towards developing food programs that are tailored to individual needs. The proposed research will be the first to combine genetics, epigenetics and nutritional intervention studies from a social cognitive neuroscience perspective.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
The partners demonstrated that the essential amino acid tryptophan compen- sates for age-related social cognitive problems, e.g. recognizing positive emotions and that especially elderly people can profit from a tryptophan-rich diet protecting against depression and increased social cognition.
Network JPI HDHL

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 Universidad de Extremadura Coordinator Spain
2 Central Institute of Mental Health Partner Germany
3 University of Bonn Partner Germany
4 University of Leiden (left the consortium end of April 2017) Partner Netherlands