Led by the Institute for Psychological Research at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, the project is specifically investigating the role supplements can play in boosting something known as ‘social cognition’, or rather their ability to slow its decline.
Social cognition reflects how people view themselves and others and declines as people age. It is based on how people select, interpret and remember information to make decisions in social situations.
Those in the trial to begin in early 2016 will be given an 8-strain ‘specifically developed multispecies probiotic’ called Ecologic BARRIER and supplied by Dutch probiotic supplier, Winclove.
The amino acid tryptophan, which is linked to production of the hormone, serotonin, which plays a part in the regulation of mood, will also be examined.
Dr Lorenza Colzato, project leader from the University of Leiden, said the project, part of the Joint Programming Initiative 'A Healthy Diet for A Healthy Life' (JPI HDHL), would be the first to examine “social and affective cognition in aging.”
She told us “we have already found elderly people willing to participate in the [3-year] study.”
Dr Colzato added: “Among others, for the first time ever, we will use epigenetics (changes in gene expression triggered by the environment) to study and understand the mechanisms underlying the interactions between brain, nutritional intervention, and social behavior.
“If our project will be successful, we will be able to develop proof-of-principle regarding personalised food programs that are tailored to individual needs.”
Other research centres in the project include the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany; the University of Bonn in Germany and the University of Extremadura in Spain.