• Being run by University College London.
  • A research project exploring the relationship between cognition and place, and subsequently health and wealth.
  • Will develop two novel approaches to examine the effects of place, a policy or event on cognition, and measure both the size and duration of that effect – a concept similar to that of the carbon footprint.

Cognition is central to human function and is an important driver of health and social outcomes. However, unlike physical health, disability, economic growth or happiness, it is rarely a focal point of public policy.

Cognitive functioning is dynamic and can be affected by numerous factors, both positively and negatively.

This project is being run by a team at the Department of Neurodegenerative Disease at University College London, and will involve the development of a metric, a ‘cognitive footprint’, which expresses the cognitive impact of factors over time. The concept is similar to that of the carbon footprint.

The project will explore the relationships between cognitive function and ‘space’ using geostatistical mapping. This is an unbiased approach to quantifying the spatial distribution of a variable, in this instance cognition, based on postcodes.

The development of a metric that can capture the size and duration of a change in cognition could enable the comparison of the effect of different policies to maximise cognition and to preserve the cognitive ‘capital’ of an individual, a group or a population.

The concept of a ‘cognitive footprint’ has been proposed in previous work, and preliminary work has assessed the effect of medications and pollution on cognition. This project will develop the cognitive footprint as a metric that can be used to explore the relationship between space and cognition, and subsequently to broader measures of health and wealth.

The methodology developed through this project will be able to be used by the research community and decision makers, enabling aggregated measures of the association between place and cognitive capital.

Contact information

For more information, please contact Martin Rossor, Department of Neurodegenerative Disease, University College London.

About this programme

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Social and Economic Value of Health: Place (2019)

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