Impact of Biological and Lifestyle Factors on Cognitive Aging and Work Ability in the Dortmund Vital Study: Protocol of an Interdisciplinary, Cross-sectional, and Longitudinal Study

JMIR Res Protoc. 2022 Mar 14;11(3):e32352. doi: 10.2196/32352.


Background: Previous research revealed several biological and environmental factors modulating cognitive functioning over a human's lifespan. However, the relationships and interactions between biological factors (eg, genetic polymorphisms, immunological parameters, metabolic products, or infectious diseases) and environmental factors (eg, lifestyle, physical activity, nutrition, and work type or stress at work) as well as their impact on cognitive functions across the lifespan are still poorly understood with respect to their complexity.

Objective: The goal of the Dortmund Vital Study is to validate previous hypotheses as well as generate and validate new hypotheses about the relationships among aging, working conditions, genetic makeup, stress, metabolic functions, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and mental performance over the human lifespan with a focus on healthy working adults. The Dortmund Vital Study is a multidisciplinary study involving the Departments of Ergonomics, Immunology, Psychology and Neurosciences, and Toxicology at the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors at the Technical University of Dortmund (IfADo) in Germany, as well as several national and international partners.

Methods: The Dortmund Vital Study is designed as a combined cross-sectional and longitudinal study. Approximately 600 healthy subjects aged between 20 and 70 years will participate. A wide range of demographic, psychological, behavioral, sensory, cardiovascular, immunological, and biochemical data, a comprehensive electroencephalography (EEG)-based cognitive test battery as well as structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have been included in the study.

Results: The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of IfADo in October 2015. The baseline testing was conducted between 2016 and 2021 and will be repeated every 5 years (3 follow-up measures until 2035). As of March 2020 (until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic), 593 participants have been enrolled. Some results from the cross-sectional part of the study were already published, further results will be published soon. Longitudinal data will be analyzed and published by 2025.

Conclusions: We anticipate that the study will shed light on sources of interindividual differences in the alterations of cognitive functioning with increasing age and reveal biological and lifestyle markers contributing to work ability, longevity, and healthy aging on the one hand, and to risk factors for cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, or even dementia on the other hand.

Trial registration: NCT05155397;

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/32352.

Keywords: aging.; biomarkers; cardiovascular system; cognitive aging; electroencephalography; genetic polymorphisms; immunology; latent infections; lifespan; lifestyle; longevity; longitudinal study; magnetic resonance imaging; metabolism; neuropsychology; occupational health; stress.

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