Mechanisms and modulators of cognitive training gain transfer in cognitively healthy aging: study protocol of the AgeGain study

Trials. 2018 Jun 27;19(1):337. doi: 10.1186/s13063-018-2688-2.


Background: Cognitively healthy older people can increase their performance in cognitive tasks through training. However, training effects are mostly limited to the trained task; thus, training effects only poorly transfer to untrained tasks or other contexts, which contributes to reduced adaptation abilities in aging. Stabilizing transfer capabilities in aging would increase the chance of persistent high performance in activities of daily living including longer independency, and prolonged active participation in social life. The trial AgeGain aims at elaborating the physiological brain mechanisms of transfer in aging and supposed major modulators of transfer capability, especially physical activity, cerebral vascular lesions, and amyloid burden.

Methods: This 4-year interventional, multicenter, phase 2a cognitive and physical training study will enroll 237 cognitively healthy older subjects in four recruiting centers. The primary endpoint of this trial is the prediction of transfer of cognitive training gains. Secondary endpoints are the structural connectivity of the corpus callosum, Default Mode Network activity, brain-derived neurotrophic factors, motor fitness, and maximal oxygen uptake.

Discussion: Cognitive transfer allows making use of cognitive training gains in everyday life. Thus, maintenance of transfer capability with aging increases the chance of persistent self-guidance and prolonged active participation in social life, which may support a good quality of life. The AgeGain study aims at identifying older people who will most benefit from cognitive training. It will increase the understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms of transfer in aging and will help in determining the impact of physical activity and sport as well as pathologic factors (such as cerebrovascular disease and amyloid load) on transfer capability.

Trial registration: German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS), ID: DRKS00013077 . Registered on 19 November 2017.

Keywords: Cognitive training; Neurobiological mechanisms and modulators of transfer; Normal aging; Physical training; Transfer of training gains.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Aging / psychology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Corpus Callosum / diagnostic imaging
  • Corpus Callosum / physiology
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Healthy Aging / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Fitness
  • Transfer, Psychology*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human