Elderly woman working on the laptop

Networking Group Aging

The group Aging investigates the mechanisms of cognitive aging and their influencing factors in order to preserve and improve work ability and wellbeing even at an advanced age.

Head of department
PD Dr. Stephan Getzmann
Ardeystr. 67
44139 Dortmund

Aging is characterized by changes in numerous sensory, motor, and cognitive functions that impact a person's daily life and work. How a person ages is influenced by a variety of factors. These factors include lifestyle, working conditions, and stress, as well as disease, infection, and genes. One goal of aging research is to elucidate the interactions of these factors and how they change over (life) time.

Aging is not only associated with the loss of functions. Compensation, experience, lifelong learning and training can efficiently counteract a decline in functions. In light of demographic change and its impact on the labor market, maintaining mental abilities, well-being and the ability to work is an important task for the future.

The networking group Aging explores the determinants and mechanisms of healthy aging with a focus on cognitive functions and the work context. The focus here is on the Dortmund Vital Study, an IfADo research project that investigates the interaction of a wide variety of influencing factors over the working life in a longitudinal approach. Research on humans is supplemented by animal studies, for example on the long-term effects of healthy nutrition.

Another goal is to learn more about the effects and compensation of age-related changes in cognitive functions. By including tasks and activities close to everyday life, a bridge is built from basic research to the life and work of older people. In addition, research focuses on how healthy aging can be actively promoted in the work context by means of training and what role technical solutions can play here.

The networking group Aging cooperates closely with the other departments of IfADo in the field of aging research, is active in Leibniz research alliances such as the research alliance "Resilient Ageing" and supports the European Cognitive Aging Society (EUCAS).

The Dortmund Vital Study

The Dortmund Vital Study investigates the interaction of exogenous and endogenous factors on cognitive aging across the lifespan with a special focus on human work. The data collected includes neuropsychological, psychophysical, neurophysiological, immunological, genetic, medical as well as biochemical parameters, thus reflecting the diversity of processes involved in the aging process.

The Dortmund Vital Study started in 2016 and is a collaborative project of all IfADo departments. After the successful initial examination of more than 600 people aged 20 to 70, the first follow-up examination began in 2021. Additional survey instruments are being used, for example to determine the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work, daily life and mental health. Publications on various aspects of cognitive aging as well as an increasing number of collaborations with external scientists on topics such as dementia, stress, and work ability show the importance of the data obtained for future questions.

Current Publications:

  • Akan, O., Bierbrauer, A., Kunz, L., Gajewski, P.D., Getzmann, S., Hengstler, J.G., Wascher, E., Axmacher, N. & Wolf, O.T. (2023). Chronic stress is associated with specific path integration deficits. Behavioural Brain Research, 442, 114305.
  • Bröde, P., Claus, M., Gajewski, P.D., Getzmann, S., Wascher, E. & Watzl, C. (2023). From immunosenescence to aging types – establishing reference intervals for immune age biomarkers by centile estimation. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 24, 13186.
  • Gajewski, P.D., Golka, K., Hengstler, J.G., Kadhum, T., Digutsch, J., Genç, E., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2023). Does physical fitness affect cognitive functions differently across adulthood? An advantage of being older. Frontiers in Psychology, 14, 1134770.
  • Gajewski, P.D., Rieker, J.A., Athanassiou, G., Bröde, P., Claus, M., Golka, K., Hengstler, J.G., Kleinsorge, T., Nitsche, M.A., Reinders, J., Tisch, A., Watzl, C., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2023). A systematic analysis of biological, sociodemographic, psychosocial, and lifestyle factors contributing to work ability across the working life span: Cross-sectional study. JMIR Formative Research,7, e40818.
  • Mundorf, A., Getzmann, S., Gajewski, P.D., Larra, M., Wascher, E. & Ocklenburg, S. (2023). Stress exposure, hand preference, and hand skill: A deep phenotyping approach. Laterality, 28, 209-237.
  • Rieker, J.A., Gajewski, P.D., Reales, J.M., Ballesteros, S., Golka, K., Hengstler, J.G., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2023). The impact of physical fitness, social life, and cognitive functions on work ability in middle-aged and older adults. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 96, 507-520.
  • Bröde, P., Claus, M., Gajewski, P.D., Getzmann, S., Golka, K., Hengstler, J.G., Wascher, E. & Watzl, C. (2022). Calibrating a comprehensive immune age metric to analyze age-related changes in cardiorespiratory fitness: A cross-sectional study. Biology, 11, 1576.
  • Gajewski, P.D., Getzmann, S., Bröde, P., Burke, M., Cadenas, C., Capellino, S., Claus, M., Genç, E., Golka, K., Hengstler, J.G., Kleinsorge, T., Marchan, R., Nitsche, M.A., Reinders, J., van Thriel, C., Watzl, C. & Wascher, E. (2022). Dortmund Vital Study: a protocol of an interdisciplinary cross-sectional and longitudinal study to evaluate impact of biological and lifestyle factors on cognitive aging and work ability. JMIR Research Protocols, 11, e32352.
  • Getzmann, S., Arnau, S., Gajewski, P.D. & Wascher, E. (2022). When long appears short: Effects of auditory distraction on event‐related potential correlates of time perception. European Journal of Neuroscience, 55, 121-137.
  • Metzen, D., Genç, E., Getzmann, S., Larra, M., Wascher, E. & Ocklenburg, S. (2022). Frontal and parietal EEG alpha asymmetry: A large-scale investigation of short-term reliability on distinct EEG systems. Brain Structure and Function, 227, 725-740.
  • Getzmann, S., Digutsch, J, & Kleinsorge, T. (2021). COVID-19 Pandemic and Personality: Agreeable people are more stressed by the feeling of missing. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18, 10759.
  • Thönes, S., Wascher, E., Gajewski, P.D. & Getzmann, S. (2021). Time hurries on but does not fly in older age – no effect of depressive symptoms. Timing & Time Perception, 9, 1-16.
  • Bierbrauer, A., Kunz, L., Gomes, C.A., Luhmann, M., Deuker, L., Getzmann, S., Wascher, E., Gajewski, P.D., Hengstler, J., Fernandez-Alvarez, M., Atienza, M., Cammisuli, D.M., Bonatti, F., Pruneti, C., Percesepe, A., Bellaali, Y., Hanseeuw, B., Strange, B.A., Cantero, J.L. & Axmacher, N. (2020). Unmasking selective path integration deficits in Alzheimer’s disease risk carriers. Science Advances, 6, 1394.
Everyday and work-related research

Along with the fundamentals of healthy cognitive aging, we consider its practical implications for the lives of older people. In (mostly) third-party funded research projects, we focus on tasks and activities that are particularly sensitive to cognitive aging and have a high relevance to everyday life. By using neurophysiological methods such as mobile EEG, influences of aging and cognition on and in everyday and work activities are investigated, focusing on their functional role for work ability and well-being.

This applies, for example, to speech comprehension under complex listening conditions. Here, we are investigating the neurocognitive mechanisms for age-related changes in auditory attention, the importance of audio-visual speech in the DFG project AuViSpeech, and the benefits of non-invasive brain stimulation and training in the BMBF project TRAINSTIM. Another examples are age effects on distraction while driving in the DFG project DisDrive. The longitudinal development of parameters relevant to traffic safety was the focus of the BASt-funded study DoBoLSiS, in which about 400 older drivers were studied over a period of 5 years. Other examples include the management of work interruptions in the DFG project Interruption as well as age influences on the use of virtual reality in human-machine interaction in the DFG priority program AUDICTIVE.

Current Publications:

  • Getzmann, S., Reiser, J.E., Gajewski, P.D., Schneider, D., Karthaus, M. & Wascher, E. (2023). Cognitive aging at work and in daily life – a narrative review on challenges due to age-related changes in central cognitive functions. Frontiers in Psychology, 14, 1232344.
  • Getzmann, S., Schneider, D. & Wascher, E. (2023). Selective spatial attention in lateralized multi-talker speech perception: EEG correlates and the role of age. Neurobiology of Aging, 126, 1-13.
  • Klatt, L.-I., Begau, A., Schneider, D., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2023). Cross-modal interactions at the audiovisual cocktail-party revealed by behavior, ERPs, and neural oscillations. NeuroImage, 271, 120022.
  • Begau, A., Arnau, S., Klatt, L.-I., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2022). Using visual speech at the cocktail-party: CNV evidence for early speech extraction in younger and older adults. Hearing Research, 426, 108636.
  • Begau, A., Klatt, L.-I., Wascher, E., Schneider, D. & Getzmann, S. (2022). The role of informational content of visual speech in an audiovisual cocktail party: Evidence from cortical oscillations in young and old participants. European Journal of Neuroscience, 56, 5215-5234.
  • Begau, A., Klatt, L.-I., Wascher, E., Schneider, D. & Getzmann, S. (2021). Congruent lip movements facilitate speech processing in a dynamic audiovisual multitalker scenario: An ERP study with older and younger adults. Behavioural Brain Research, 412, 113436.
  • Hanenberg, C., Schlüter, M.-C., Getzmann, S. & Lewald, J. (2021). Short-term audiovisual spatial training enhances electrophysiological correlates of auditory selective spatial attention. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 15, 645702.
  • Karthaus, M., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2021). Distraction in the driving simulator: An ERP study with young, middle-aged, old and oldest drivers. Safety, 7, 36.
  • Karthaus, M., Wascher, E., Falkenstein, M. & Getzmann, S. (2020). The ability of young, middle-aged and older drivers to inhibit visual and auditory distraction in a driving simulator task. Transportation Research Part F: Psychology and Behaviour, 68, 272-284.
Training and interventions

Maintaining and improving cognitive function in old age is of particular importance. Building on our research on the effects of cognitive aging on everyday activities and work performance, we are investigating the benefits of learning and training interventions. In previous projects such as the PFIFF studies and INNOKAT project, we have developed, implemented, and evaluated cognitive, physical, and stress management training interventions that can effectively improve appropriate resources in younger and older workers. In addition, we are exploring the efficacy of short-term trainings that can be easily integrated into people's daily work routines.

Technology-based approaches will increasingly support older people in the future. The development of such a solution is the focus of projects to improve the occupational safety and health of older employees. For example, the EU Horizon 2020 project sustAGE aimed to develop and evaluate a person-centric smart solution to support older workers in the form of a personalized recommendation system to provide feedback on a person's current mental, physical and motivational status. The BMBF-funded project "Digital Angel" aimed to improve the working conditions of nursing staff by developing assistance systems to improve emotional work in dealing with patients. This was flanked by the development of accompanying intervention measures, for example, for stress management. Our new DFG project StressDrive aims at behavioral, emotional and physiological consequences and possible interventions to reduce work stress in younger and older truck drivers.

Current Publications:

  • Gajewski, P.D., Stahn, C., Zülch, J., Wascher, E., Getzmann, S. & Falkenstein, M. (2023). Effects of cognitive and stress management training in middle-aged and older industrial workers in different socioeconomic settings: A randomized controlled study. Frontiers in Psychology, 14, 1229503.
  • Kardys, C., Küper, K., Getzmann, S., Falkenstein, M. & Voelcker-Rehage, C. (2022). A comparison of the effects of short-term physical and combined multi-modal training on cognitive functions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19, 7506.
  • Velana, M., Sobieraj, S., Digutsch, J. & Rinkenauer, G. (2022). The advances of immersive virtual reality interventions for the enhancement of stress management and relaxation among healthy adults: a systematic review. Applied Science, 12, 7309.
  • Digutsch, J., Velana, M., Rinkenauer, G. & Sobieraj, S. (2021). Capturing interactive work for nurses – first validation of the German IWDS-N as a multidimensional measure. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18, 7786,
  • Velana, M. & Rinkenauer, G. (2021). Individual-level interventions for decreasing job-related stress and enhancing coping strategies among nurses: A systematic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 708696.
  • Gajewski, P.D., Thönes, S., Falkenstein, M., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2020). Multidomain cognitive training transfers to attentional and executive functions in healthy older adults. Frontriers in Human Neuroscience, 14, 586963.
  • Gajewski, P.D. & Falkenstein, M. (2018). ERP and behavioral effects of physical and cognitive training on working memory in aging: a randomized controlled study. Neural Plasticity, article ID 3454835.
  • Gajewski, P.D., Freude, G. & Falkenstein, M. (2017). Cognitive training sustainably improves executive functioning in middle-aged industry workers assessed by task switching: a randomized controlled ERP study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 81.
  • Küper, K., Gajewski, P.D., Frieg, C. & Falkenstein, M. (2017). A randomized controlled ERP study on the effects of multi-domain cognitive training and task difficulty on task switching performance in older adults. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11, 184.


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