Read about our current research projects, including the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study/The Disconnected Mind, with links to our collaborators and funders.
The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study/The Disconnected Mind
Principle investigator: Dr Simon Cox
Funded period: various
The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study has been funded by Age UK under the title of the ‘Disconnected Mind’ project since 2004. It is a multi-disciplinary research project, based at the University of Edinburgh, that examines why some people’s brains and thinking skills age better than others’.
At the project’s core is the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (LBC1936). This is a group of people born in 1936, and now in their 80s, for whom the research team has validated IQ data at age 11, collected during the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947. These rare and valuable childhood data provide a baseline for studying cognitive change from youth to later life, and then longitudinally within older age.
Of the 70,805 11-year olds who took the 1947 Survey, 1,091 people, mostly living in the Edinburgh City and surrounding Lothian areas, were recruited to the LBC1936 between 2004 and 2007, when they were about 70 years old.
The Disconnected Mind research team have examined the LBC1936 participants every three years from age 70, collecting an extraordinarily wide range of data from them. In addition, the team continuously looks for new areas of data collection as they become available with the progress of knowledge and technological advancement.
Other on-going projects
Along with the data previously collected from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 (LBC1921) study, LBC1936 and LBC1921 provide the core data for all research and collaborative projects carried out. You can find out about them below.
Lifecourse of place: How environments throughout life can support healthy ageing
Principle investigator: Dr Jamie Pearce
Co-investigators: Professor Niamh Shortt
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative
Funded period: September 2020 – September 2022
This project examines whether and how exposure to green space, air pollution and area-level deprivation in childhood, adulthood and old age affects healthy ageing. It makes use of the unique Lothian Birth Cohort longitudinal data, following adults born in 1936 in the area around Edinburgh, Scotland. We use measures of environmental exposure in the participants’ residential area throughout their life, collected from historical records, and local measures of air pollution across the 20th century using atmospheric chemistry transport models. To assess their effect on health across the life course, we use markers of healthy ageing that were captured in late adulthood with cognitive assessments (for example, processing speed, verbal memory), brain imaging (for example, total brain volume) and with indicators of biological ageing (for example, telomere length).
Lifetime musical experience and healthy ageing
Principle investigator: Dr Judith Okely
Funded period: November 2019 - April 2022
Music is with us throughout life: from nursery rhymes to playing in a band or joining a choir in retirement. These are enhancing experiences for many of us, but could making or listening to music also help us tackle challenges related to ageing? This project examines associations between musical experience and various aspects of healthy ageing using data from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. The results could lay the groundwork for establishing whether musical experience - and experience playing a musical instrument in particular - is beneficial for older people.
From Genetic Sequence to Phenotypic Consequence: Genetic and environmental links between cognitive ability, socioeconomic position, and health (GS2PC)
Principle Investigator: Dr W. David Hill
Funder: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Funded period: October 2020 – September 2025
This project examines how our genes and environment relate to cognitive ability and how these influence our physical and mental health, as well as more biologically distal phenotypes such as socioeconomic position. While previous research has established that genetic variation is associated with cognitive ability and that the genetic variants linked to cognitive ability overlap with those associated with physical and mental health as well as socioeconomic position, it currently remains unclear how these associations arise and interact. David's GS2PC research will help us understand how genetic and environmental factors that are associated with cognitive ability can influence our health and well-being.