Health across the Human Life Cycle

Research in this profile theme addresses health, cognitive functioning, disease and wellbeing throughout the life cycle. By studying the complex interplay between genes and environment, and the working of the brain over the life span, we aim to provide the tools for the early diagnosis and prevention of diseases and psycho-social problems, and for lifelong cognitive, emotional and physical enhancement, resulting in medical literacy and healthy ageing across the population.

Genes and environment

Many diseases and disorders are caused by a complex interplay of genes, the expression of genes, and environment. Take, for example, type II diabetes, several types of cancer, depression, or simply the process of ageing itself. In this research theme, we aim to disentangle this complex interplay, in order to prevent, control and monitor diseases. Our key focus is on detecting cognitive and psycho-social problems as early as possible, and on promoting healthy ageing.

Life Cycle

We are continually discovering on discovering new evidence that influences early in life or even before conception are determining factors for health, psychological wellbeing and disease throughout the lifespan and even beyond, by way of epigenetic imprinting. In Leiden, we study these early determining mechanisms to be able to intervene as early as possible. The inevitable conclusion to be drawn from our findings is that youth, adulthood and ageing should not be studied in isolation.

Brain Function and Dysfunction over the Lifespan

In the 21st century, our brains will have to process more and more information while at the same time coping with ageing. We bring together the cognitive and the biomedical neurosciences in a unique multidisciplinary setting, studying brain function and dysfunction in the developing brain, the adult brain and the ageing brain. The underlying belief is that to find out why something in the brain goes wrong we first have to know what normal brains look like and how they function. We study subjects ranging from language processing to cognitive robotics, and from migraine to psychiatric disorders and neuro-pharmacology.

Medical literacy

The 21st century has been called the age of chronic diseases. More and more diseases will become chronic rather than acutely life-threatening. This means that controlling and monitoring diseases, preventing deterioration, and coping with the effects in the best possible ways will be as important as curing them. This is a responsibility shared by scientists, doctors, educators and the public. Both the population at large and the patient have to be informed, facilitated and coached in the best possible ways. Our aim is to provide the knowledge needed for medical literacy and for the self-management of diseases and ageing among the population at large.


In the 21st century, people want to remain at home as long as possible when they are ill, disabled or ageing. This means that the development of new technologies is crucially important. In close co-operation with other partners, we aim to develop the technology needed for self-management and life-long independence. The Unversity's co-operationĀ in Medical Delta is an extremely fruitful platform for this.

Unique elements in the Leiden approach

  • The life cycle and intergenerational approach

  • Combining the medical and the non-medical settings

  • Close co-operation between many research fields, health care, and education

Areas of focus

  • Early diagnosis of diseases, learning disorders and psycho-social problems

  • Preventing diseases or the deterioration of diseases

  • Self-management of diseases and disorders

  • Learning and healthy ageing

  • Brain and cognition

  • Genes and environment

  • Technology development

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Description of the Health across the Human Life Cycle research profile (in Dutch)

Last Modified: 09-05-2012