13 January 2020

Neuroscientist Esther Aarts has been awarded a Crossover grant from NWO for her MOCIA project. This grant will boost progress in lifestyle research for the elderly. MOCIA focuses on achieving a healthier brain during aging, and involves a public-private partnership.

The MOCIA project is coordinated by Esther Aarts, researcher at Radboud University’s Donders Institute, in collaboration with Radboudumc researcher Jurgen Claassen. It involves a public-private partnership consisting of eight academic institutions and eight co-financing partners.

The project aims at being able to signal an increased risk of cognitive decline and improving prevention by developing a personalised lifestyle intervention. “The current ageing of the population is inevitably accompanied by increased numbers of elderly with cognitive decline. Early prevention is crucial to ensure optimal cognitive functioning. However, we are largely unable to identify people with an increased risk of cognitive decline,” says Aarts. "In addition, no personalized interventions to prevent this decline are available."

MOCIA stands for Maintaining Optimal Cognitive function In Ageing: a personalised lifestyle prevention approach. “As part of a global initiative, we will be testing and improving a lifestyle intervention that has already been shown to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people in the Netherlands,” explains Aarts. “We will focus on individual differences, predictive factors and resources with the aim of offering elderly people a personalised intervention at home.”

Public-private partnership

The Crossover programme is a new initiative of NWO, and the project proposed by Esther Aarts is one of the first of five to be approved in the current round. This programme is part of NWO’s contribution to the 2018-2019 Knowledge and Innovation Contract. With this contract, government, industry and knowledge institutes are underscoring the top sectors’ ambitions to strengthen the Dutch knowledge and innovation system. Compared with the 'standard' public-private partnerships, the intended projects in the Crossover Programme cover a wider palette of top sectors and other research agendas.

Besides Radboud University and Radboudumc, the public sector partners are Wageningen University, the University of Twente, Maastricht University, Amsterdam UMC, UMC Groningen and the HAN University of Applied Sciences. The co-financing partners are Danone Nutricia Research, IMEC (OnePlanet Research Center), DSM Nutritional Products, Salut (a VGZ spin-out), Hersenstichting, Reckitt Benckiser/Mead Johnson Nutrition, Alzheimer Nederland, and Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. The project has a scope of €9.17 million, of which €6.25 million is funded by NWO.

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