Brain training as an exclusionary process in people with dementia

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United KingdomUniversity College London United Kingdom
Early Stage Researcher (ESR2)


Sebastien Libert

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Prof. Paul Higgs

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Dr. Georgina Charlesworth

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My name is Sébastien Libert. I am passionate about research as a critical engagement in our contemporary societies. During my Master in Social and Cultural Anthropology at KU Leuven University (Belgium), I oriented the majority of my master’s research projects towards an understanding of concepts and categories linked to mental illness, and the way they are embedded inside a broader societal context.

For my master thesis, I analysed the working of psychiatry in Libreville (Gabon), and considered different issues relating to medicalization, stigmatization, structural violence, transnational forces, and their interactions with individual subjectivities. I deepened my knowledge regarding health matters during an exchange at the University of Copenhagen.

In line with these research interests for health matters and social dynamics, it is therefore a pleasure for me to work in the frame of the INDUCT project, and to help improve the care of people living with dementia. 

Start date September 2016
Duration 36 months


ESR2 will examine the nature of brain training and investigate the assumptions lying behind it as well as how it is marketed. The research will also elicit the views and attitudes of those who engage with such technologies as well as those who do not. Concerns about the onset of dementia now represent the major health fear of older people. While treatments for the condition remain elusive there is a widespread belief that there are identifiable preventative measures that can be taken by individuals concerned about a potential decline in their cognitive abilities. Chief among them has been the idea of ‘brain training’ which through the use of specific mental exercises is promoted as being able to protect against the development of dementia.

Expected Results

A large survey of older people conducted across Europe working with Alzheimer’s Europe (AE) will identify concepts and attitudes towards brain training contrasting differences between countries. Focus groups in 3 countries with people with early dementia will look at attitudes to the notion of brain training and potential barriers and facilitators to them using it. The results are likely to provide a detailed description of the attitudes and concerns towards brain training in Europe today both in the general public and in those with early dementia.

Planned secondment(s)

Two of 3 months each. Firstly for 3 months with AE to look at attitudes to and experiences of brain training in people with dementia. The second with IDES (Spain) the technology enterprise to work with GRADIOR software and other cognitive interventions in early dementia to look at the nature of people’s experiences.



Libert S, Charlesworth G, Higgs P (2019). Cognitive decline and distinction: a new line of
fracture in later life? Ageing & Society 1–19.


Libert, S (2019, July) – Fear of dementia today: an ethnography of brain training research – 48th Annual Conference British Society of Gerontology, Resilience and Living Well in Local Communities, University of Liverpool, UK.

Libert, S. (2019, June) – Brain training and active ageing: tracking success in social division – The digitally engaged patient, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Libert, S (2018, October) – Assistive technologies in dementia: Findings of the INDUCT consortium (Plenary session) – 28th Alzheimer Europe Conference (#28AEC) “Making dementia a European priority”, Barcelona, Spain

Libert, S ( 2018, July) – In search of a hopeful future:: exploring meaning and power in dementia today. In P. Higgs (symposium lead) Technologies for dementia: issues of power and identity. Symposium conducted at The British Society of Gerontology 47th Annual Conference, University of Manchester, UK – – page 273

Libert, S ( 2017, July) – Anxiety, identity politics, and the social context of brain training. In P. Higgs (symposium lead) Dementia and the new technologies. Symposium conducted at The British Society of Gerontology 46th Annual Conference, Swansea, UK – – page 57


ACT Project blog – Spotlight on Technology and Dementia Research –


Libert, S. (2018, October) – Assistive technologies in dementia: Findings of the INDUCT consortium (Plenary session) – 28th Alzheimer Europe Conference (#28AEC) “Making dementia a European priority”, Barcelona, Spain – (Recorded by Alzheimer Europe)


Alzheimer Europe newsletter May 2017 – Ethics working group explores issues surrounding disability and dementia – page 2