Cognitively enriched walking interventions for older adults to boost cognitive plasticity

    KU Leuven
    Medical sciencesOther
    Psychological sciencesOther
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    01/08/2019 23:59 - Europe/Brussels
    Belgium › Leuven

Dementia currently affects more than 47 million people worldwide and it is forecasted that the prevalence will triple by 2050. Moreover, dementia has been reported to be one of the most costly disorders for the Belgium healthcare system. There is good scientific evidence that the cognitive impairments associated with the development of dementia can be lessened or even reversed because of the plasticity of the brain (rewiring). Recent research has shown that physical activity combined with performing cognitively challenging tasks is a very potent way to induce this rewiring of the brain that can enable people to improve cognitive functions. Yet, so far, this evidence is based mainly on controlled laboratory conditions. In this project, we will translate this laboratory-based evidence into a real-life, low-cost intervention that is easily accessible and tailored to the needs of the aging population. We will build upon a well-established, evidence based physical activity program for older adults in Flanders and enrich it with cognitive training. We will work with older adults, health professionals and scientists to define the optimum cognitive task that can feasibly deliver in such group settings. We will undertake qualitative work to understand the lived experiences of different potential options and conduct pilot trials to finalize the intervention. We will then evaluate the added value of including cognitive tasks to an existing physical activity program in improving cognition of older adults by conducting a randomized controlled trial.


We offer the successful candidate a full-time employment (initially for 2 years with a possible 2-year extension provided a positive evaluation), in order to write a doctoral thesis within 4 years.  The position has a starting date of October 1, 2019. Successful completion of the PhD program will result in a doctoral degree in Biomedical Sciences. The candidate will be associated with the doctoral school of Biomedical Sciences and enrolled in the thematic track ‘Physical Exercise in Health & Disease’.

Eligibility criteria

  • You obtained a Master’s degree in Physical Education and Movement Sciences, Psychology, Rehabilitation Sciences, Health Sciences, or another relevant degree
  • You have a strong interest in physical activity and health and affinity with older adults
  • You achieved excellent results during your educational program (bachelor and master degree)
  • You have excellent oral and written communication skills, both in Dutch and English, and are able to communicate well with colleagues and older adults
  • You have good organizational and project management skills
  • You are capable of taking initiative, working in teams as well as independently, and respecting deadlines


Job description

  • To perform scientific research in preparation of a PhD thesis (see project description): organization of the studies, recruitment and follow-up of participants, data collection and statistical analysis, writing scientific papers
  • To supervise/assist with supervision of Master thesis students within the research topic
  • To provide teaching assistance for the faculty members of the Department of Movement Sciences

Selection process

You can apply for this job no later than 1/08/2019 via the online application. Interviews will take place during the week of August 19 to 23, 2019.

In order to apply, you will have to upload a motivation letter, including your motivation to do a doctoral training on the topic of ‘active and healthy ageing’, as well as your CV (including your grades).

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Jannique van Uffelen, tel.: +32 16 37 30 97, mail: jannique.vanuffelen@kuleuven.be; Prof. dr. Greet Cardon (promotor of this project at UGent), mail: Greet.Cardon@UGent.be; or Prof. dr. Filip Boen, tel.: +32 16 32 91 79, mail: filip.boen@kuleuven.be.
You can apply for this job no later than 01/08/2019 via the online application tool

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Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven

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