University of Gothenburg
Photo: Pajsa, Pixabay

Adult Development and Aging

We study how people develop during their entire life, with a focus on identifying the principles that describe how people develop during younger and older adulthood. It is important to study conditions during the entire life, also in childhood and younger adulthood, to understand how people develop in aging. We investigate in particular the genetic mechanisms, behavioral patterns, and sociocultural factors that affect how mental health and cognitive ability (e.g., memory and decision-making) changes through life.

Research group: Lifespan Development Lab (LIFE LAB)

About us

People develop during the entire life. The paths that people take early in life shape develop during the rest of the individual’s life, but development continues to be malleable during the entire life.

The general goal of our research is to identify the principles that control development and aging, such that this knowledge can be used to identify ways to improve the opportunities for good development during adulthood and aging for all individuals.

Our research

We investigate the genetic mechanisms, behavioral patterns, and sociocultural variables that affect how cognitive ability and emotional wellbeing changes during aging. We do this in a multidisciplinary way, by using registers, databases, questionnaires, medical and psychological examinations, magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, experiments, and interventions. 

In some studies, the focus is in particular on how sociocultural variables, such as retirement, affect cognitive ability and emotional wellbeing. By following the same individuals over a longer time, we have been able to observe that the retirement transition can mean both increased and decreases socioeconomic inequalities. Most people that retire can handle the transition well. In the short run, it seems like retirement also do not have any appreciable effects on cognitive performance. In related project, the focus of our studies are on how lifestyle factors, such as physical exercise and social activities, affect aging, and how important heritability is for cognitive ability in aging.

The importance of studying conditions during the entire life, including childhood and adulthood, to understand the aging process is acknowledged in much of the research that we do. We have for example show that extensions of the length of education, induced by historical reforms of the Swedish education system, improves cognitive ability. These effects are maintained throughout life and demonstrate the importance of understanding how learning affects development of cognitive ability for understanding also cognitive functioning in aging. Some of the groups researchers therefore also take a more experimental approach to understanding learning. In various types of training studies, we investigate the brain mechanisms behind how humans learn motor skill (e.g., playing an instrument) and how learning plays a role in reasoning skill.