Cognitive Aging and Mental Health – Erika Jonsson Laukka Group

Our group focuses on cognitive processes and their brain correlates to understand individual differences in cognitive aging and mental health. To achieve this, we collect data on different cognitive and brain modalities and make use of existing longitudinal databases.

Research news and upcoming activities


Research support

  • Swedish Research Council
  • Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
  • Swedish Dementia foundation
  • Karolinska Institutet

Staff and contact

Group leader

All members of the group

Laukka Team

Bäckman Team

Guitart-Masip Team

Profile image

Marc Guitart-Masip

Principal Researcher

Papenberg Team

Profile image

Goran Papenberg

Principal Researcher

Contact and visit us

Postal address

Aging Research Center, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society
Karolinska Institutet
SE-171 77 Stockholm

Visiting address

Tomtebodavägen 18 A, Widerström Building, floors 9 and 10
SE-171 65 Solna

Map to Widerström building, Tomtebodavägen 18a, Solna

Laukka team

Team members

Profile image

Erika Jonsson Laukka

Senior lecturer, research group leader
Profile image

Ingrid Ekström

Assistant Professor
Profile image

Javier Oltra

Postdoctoral Researcher

Frida Smids

Affiliated to Research
Profile image

Yvonne Brehmer

Affiliated to Research
Profile image

Andreja Speh

Affiliated to Research

Our research

The overall aim of our research is to identify determinants of individual differences in old-age cognitive performance and age- and dementia-related cognitive decline. This will increase our understanding of why persons age at different rates and which persons are at high risk of developing a dementia disorder. Increased knowledge in these areas might help promoting that elderly persons maintain their previous cognitive levels well into old age.

One important line of research concerns the associations between cognitive function, olfactory function and dementia.  We are interested in predictors of cognitive and olfactory decline in aging and how these domains in turn are associated with dementia biomarkers and future dementia risk.

A more recent project focuses on the long-term influence on COVID-19 on cognitive and olfactory function, and the impact of deficits in these domains on well-being and daily functioning in post-COVID patients.


Long-term follow-up of individuals with long-lasting cognitive deficits following mild COVID-19

  • PI: Erika Jonsson Laukka
  • Co-applicants: Marika Möller and Kristian Borg, Danderyd Rehabilitation Clinic, Danderyd University Hospital, Marc Guitart-Masip, Grégoria Kalpouzos, Goran Papenberg, Karolinska Institutet
  • Funded by: The Swedish Research Council (VR)
  • Timeline: 2023-2025

Long-lasting cognitive and olfactory deficits following mild COVID-19 – modifying factors, brain correlates, and prognostic impact for well-being and daily functioning

The project aims to increase the knowledge regarding nature, severity, and duration of long-term effects on cognitive and olfactory function after mild COVID. Longitudinal follow-up of these individuals is vital to understand the long-term effects.

The researchers are interested in which individuals are more likely to be affected by and recover from such deficits, underlying mechanisms, and potential consequences.

  • PI: Erika Jonsson Laukka
  • Co-applicants: Marika Möller and Kristian Borg, Danderyd Rehabilitation Clinic, Danderyd University Hospital, Marc Guitart-Masip, Grégoria Kalpouzos, Goran Papenberg, Karolinska Institutet
  • Funded by: The Swedish Research Council (VR)
  • Timeline: 2022-2025

Olfactory function, cognitive aging, and dementia

The aim of the project is to deepen our knowledge regarding olfactory deficits in aging and their role in predicting dementia and cognitive decline.

The project covers 4 main topics: (1) Olfactory performance and risk of future dementia and cognitive impairment, (2) The association between olfactory decline and cognitive decline, (3) Mechanisms of olfactory function and decline, and (4) Clinical advantages of olfactory testing.

We will make use of the database from a Swedish population-based cohort – SNAC-K. We will also collect new data on olfactory function in a memory clinic sample.

Longitudinal trajectories of olfactory abilities: What predicts old-age olfactory memory decline?

Olfactory deficits are common in old age and associated with adverse health outcomes. This project aims to do a thorough investigation of predictors of olfactory memory decline in the normal elderly population.

We will use an existing database from a large Swedish population-based cohort – SNAC-K. Olfactory abilities, neuropsychological test performance, physical function, and medical health were repeatedly assessed across 12 years in people aged ≥ 60 years.

The results will promote the understanding of the underlying causes of old-age olfactory impairment. This will have implications for how to design interventions to maintain olfactory function into old age.

  • PI: Erika Jonsson Laukka
  • Co-applicant: Maria Larsson, Stockholm University
  • Funded by: The Swedish Research Council (VR)
  • Timeline: 2018-2020

Ongoing data collections

  • Swedish National Study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen - SNAC-K. The goal of SNAC-K is to collect longitudinal population-based data to understand the ageing process, and to identify possible preventive strategies to improve health and care in older adults. PI: Laura Fratiglioni. (2001–)
  • SNAC-K MRI2020 is a sub study of the larger SNAC-K study. It targets a new cohort of 60-year-olds that were added during wave 7-8, as well as participants who were already part of SNAC-K. (2021–)
  • The Long-COVID study is following on up patients diagnosed with post COVID-19 syndrome. The study aims to identify modifying factors and brain correlates to long-lasting cognitive and olfactory deficits in this group, as well as their prognostic impact for well-being and daily functioning: PI: Erika Jonsson Laukka (2022–)
  • Mechanisms associated with olfactory and cognitive function in aging is a data collection carried out at the Memory Clinic, Karolinska University Hospital, Solna. The aim of this study is to investigate the associations among olfactory function, cognitive abilities, and dementia. PI: Erika Jonsson Laukka (2021–)

Selected publications

Markers of olfactory dysfunction and progression to dementia: A 12-year population-based study.
Laukka EJ, Ekström I, Larsson M, Grande G, Fratiglioni L, Rizzuto D
Alzheimers Dement 2023 Jul;19(7):3019-3027

Trajectories of cognitive decline and dementia development: A 12-year longitudinal study.
Payton NM, Marseglia A, Grande G, Fratiglioni L, Kivipelto M, Bäckman L, Laukka EJ
Alzheimers Dement 2022 Jun;():

Environmental Air Pollution and Olfactory Decline in Aging.
Ekström IA, Rizzuto D, Grande G, Bellander T, Laukka EJ
Environ Health Perspect 2022 Feb;130(2):27005

The Relationship Between Cardiovascular Health and Rate of Cognitive Decline in Young-Old and Old-Old Adults: A Population-Based Study.
Speh A, Wang R, Winblad B, Kramberger MG, Bäckman L, Qiu C, Laukka EJ
J Alzheimers Dis 2021 ;84(4):1523-1537

Predictors of Olfactory Decline in Aging: A Longitudinal Population-Based Study.
Ekström I, Larsson M, Rizzuto D, Fastbom J, Bäckman L, Laukka EJ
J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2020 Nov;75(12):2441-2449

Combined genetic influences on episodic memory decline in older adults without dementia.
Laukka EJ, Köhncke Y, Papenberg G, Fratiglioni L, Bäckman L
Neuropsychology 2020 Sep;34(6):654-666

Combining Cognitive Markers to Identify Individuals at Increased Dementia Risk: Influence of Modifying Factors and Time to Diagnosis.
Payton NM, Rizzuto D, Fratiglioni L, Kivipelto M, Bäckman L, Laukka EJ
J Int Neuropsychol Soc 2020 Sep;26(8):785-797

A Prospective Study on Risk Factors for Olfactory Dysfunction in Aging.
Palmquist E, Larsson M, Olofsson JK, Seubert J, Bäckman L, Laukka EJ
J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2020 Feb;75(3):603-610

Effects of between-person differences and within-person changes in symptoms of anxiety and depression on older age cognitive performance.
Laukka EJ, Dykiert D, Allerhand M, Starr JM, Deary IJ
Psychol Med 2018 Jun;48(8):1350-1358

Phantom Smells: Prevalence and Correlates in a Population-Based Sample of Older Adults.
Sjölund S, Larsson M, Olofsson JK, Seubert J, Laukka EJ
Chem Senses 2017 May;42(4):309-318

Olfactory memory in the old and very old: relations to episodic and semantic memory and APOE genotype.
Larsson M, Hedner M, Papenberg G, Seubert J, Bäckman L, Laukka EJ
Neurobiol Aging 2016 Feb;38():118-126

Bäckman team

Team members

Lars Bäckman

Professor, Team leader

Saana Korkki

Affiliated to Research
Profile image

Martin Lövdén

Affiliated to Research

Jonna Nilsson

Affiliated to Research
Profile image

Gaia Olivo

Affiliated to Research

Our research

Our main research focus centers around the Cognition, Brain, and Aging (COBRA) project, a 3-wave longitudinal project with testing every fifth year.

Participants (n =181) were in their mid 60s at baseline.

COBRA includes measurement of dopamine (DA) D2 receptors using PET, structural and functional MRI, as well as extensive cognitive testing and assessment of life-style factors.

The key objective is to study the relation between changes in various brain parameters and changes in cognitive functions in aging, with special focus on DA.

We seek to elucidate the question of why some older persons exhibit marked decline in brain and cognition as they grow older, whereas others age gracefully. 

Selected publications

Longitudinal stability in working memory and frontal activity in relation to general brain maintenance.
Nyberg L, Karalija N, Papenberg G, Salami A, Andersson M, Pedersen R, Vikner T, Garrett DD, Riklund K, Wåhlin A, Lövdén M, Lindenberger U, Bäckman L
Sci Rep 2022 Dec;12(1):20957

5-Year Associations among Cerebral Arterial Pulsatility, Perivascular Space Dilation, and White Matter Lesions.
Vikner T, Karalija N, Eklund A, Malm J, Lundquist A, Gallewicz N, Dahlin M, Lindenberger U, Riklund K, Bäckman L, Nyberg L, Wåhlin A
Ann Neurol 2022 Nov;92(5):871-881

Longitudinal Dopamine D2 Receptor Changes and Cerebrovascular Health in Aging.
Karalija N, Johansson J, Papenberg G, Wåhlin A, Salami A, Köhncke Y, Brandmaier AM, Andersson M, Axelsson J, Riklund K, Lövdén M, Lindenberger U, Bäckman L, Nyberg L
Neurology 2022 Sep;99(12):e1278-e1289

Sex differences in dopamine integrity and brain structure among healthy older adults: Relationships to episodic memory.
Karalija N, Papenberg G, Wåhlin A, Johansson J, Andersson M, Axelsson J, Riklund K, Lindenberger U, Nyberg L, Bäckman L
Neurobiol Aging 2021 Sep;105():272-279

Fronto-striatal dopamine D2 receptor availability is associated with cognitive variability in older individuals with low dopamine integrity.
Korkki SM, Papenberg G, Karalija N, Garrett DD, Riklund K, Lövdén M, Lindenberger U, Nyberg L, Bäckman L
Sci Rep 2021 Oct;11(1):21089

Distinct and Common Large-Scale Networks of the Hippocampal Long Axis in Older Age: Links to Episodic Memory and Dopamine D2 Receptor Availability.
Nordin K, Nyberg L, Andersson M, Karalija N, Riklund K, Bäckman L, Salami A
Cereb Cortex 2021 Jun;31(7):3435-3450

Mapping the landscape of human dopamine D2/3 receptors with [11C]raclopride.
Papenberg G, Jonasson L, Karalija N, Johansson J, Köhncke Y, Salami A, Andersson M, Axelsson J, Wåhlin A, Riklund K, Lindenberger U, Lövdén M, Nyberg L, Bäckman L
Brain Struct Funct 2019 Nov;224(8):2871-2882

Dopamine D2/3 Binding Potential Modulates Neural Signatures of Working Memory in a Load-Dependent Fashion.
Salami A, Garrett DD, Wåhlin A, Rieckmann A, Papenberg G, Karalija N, Jonasson L, Andersson M, Axelsson J, Johansson J, Riklund K, Lövdén M, Lindenberger U, Bäckman L, Nyberg L
J Neurosci 2019 Jan;39(3):537-547

Dopamine D2 receptor availability is linked to hippocampal-caudate functional connectivity and episodic memory.
Nyberg L, Karalija N, Salami A, Andersson M, Wåhlin A, Kaboovand N, Köhncke Y, Axelsson J, Rieckmann A, Papenberg G, Garrett DD, Riklund K, Lövdén M, Lindenberger U, Bäckman L
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 Jul;113(28):7918-23

Guitart-Masip team

Team members

Profile image

Marc Guitart-Masip

Associate Professor, Team leader
Profile image

Stepan Wenke

Affiliated to Research;Phd Student

Martin Nilsson

Affiliated to Research;Phd Student

Former group members

  • Amy Walsh
  • Benjamin Garzon
  • Lieke de Boer

Our research

One line of our research focuses on understanding the role of the neuromodulator dopamine in motivational process and decision-making across the adult lifespan. We are currently developing a battery of tasks to behaviorally disentangle different aspects of the dopaminergic system such as reward learning and invigoration. We want to apply this battery to follow groups of patients over time and identify whether changes in clinical status relate to changes in the function of the dopaminergic system.

Another line focuses on understanding how the human brain encodes expectations about the world (prior beliefs) and how this information is combined with available information to guide decision-making. We are developing and validating a behavioral test to quantify these prior beliefs and will use fMRI to investigate how the brain encodes them. We will also test whether psychiatric patients hold distorted prior beliefs and whether these are changeable with psychotherapy.

Selected publications

* equally contributing authors

Dopamine and reward-related vigor in younger and older adults.
Hird EJ, Beierholm U, De Boer L, Axelsson J, Backman L, Guitart-Masip M
Neurobiol Aging 2022 Oct;118():34-43

Investigating associations of delay discounting with brain structure, working memory, and episodic memory.
Garzón B, Kurth-Nelson Z, Bäckman L, Nyberg L, Guitart-Masip M
Cereb Cortex 2023 Feb;33(5):1669-1678

Decision-making ability, psychopathology, and brain connectivity.
Moutoussis M, Garzón B, Neufeld S, Bach DR, Rigoli F, Goodyer I, Bullmore E, , Guitart-Masip M*, Dolan RJ*
Neuron 2021 Jun;109(12):2025-2040.e7

Role of dopamine and gray matter density in aging effects and individual differences of functional connectomes.
Garzón B, Lövdén M, de Boer L, Axelsson J, Riklund K, Bäckman L, Nyberg L, Guitart-Masip M
Brain Struct Funct 2021 Apr;226(3):743-758

Motivational learning biases are differentially modulated by genetic determinants of striatal and prefrontal dopamine function.
Richter A, de Boer L, Guitart-Masip M, Behnisch G, Seidenbecher CI, Schott BH
J Neural Transm (Vienna) 2021 Nov;128(11):1705-1720

Learning in anticipation of reward and punishment: perspectives across the human lifespan.
Betts MJ, Richter A, de Boer L, Tegelbeckers J, Perosa V, Baumann V, Chowdhury R, Dolan RJ, Seidenbecher C, Schott BH, Düzel E, Guitart-Masip M, Krauel K
Neurobiol Aging 2020 Dec;96():49-57

Corticostriatal White Matter Integrity and Dopamine D1 Receptor Availability Predict Age Differences in Prefrontal Value Signaling during Reward Learning.
de Boer L, Garzón B, Axelsson J, Riklund K, Nyberg L, Bäckman L, Guitart-Masip M
Cereb Cortex 2020 Sep;30(10):5270-5280

The Role of the Striatum in Learning to Orthogonalize Action and Valence: A Combined PET and 7 T MRI Aging Study.
Perosa V, de Boer L, Ziegler G, Apostolova I, Buchert R, Metzger C, Amthauer H, Guitart-Masip M, Düzel E, Betts MJ
Cereb Cortex 2020 May;30(5):3340-3351

Dorsal striatal dopamine D1 receptor availability predicts an instrumental bias in action learning.
de Boer L, Axelsson J, Chowdhury R, Riklund K, Dolan RJ, Nyberg L, Bäckman L, Guitart-Masip M
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2019 Jan;116(1):261-270

Attenuation of dopamine-modulated prefrontal value signals underlies probabilistic reward learning deficits in old age.
de Boer L, Axelsson J, Riklund K, Nyberg L, Dayan P, Bäckman L, Guitart-Masip M
Elife 2017 Sep;6():

Papenberg team

Team members

Profile image

Goran Papenberg

Principal Researcher

Our research

We focus on the molecular contributions to cognitive aging, with a special focus on dopamine and neuroinflammation. We use genetic, epigenetic, lifestyle and neuroimaging techniques (Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Positron Emission Tomography) to understand the heterogeneity in brain and cognitive aging.

Research projects

  • Mechanisms of Cognitive Aging - the Roles of Brain Iron Accumulation and Neuroinflammation
  • The Role of DNA methylation in Dopaminergic Neuromodulation of Cognitive Aging