Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Theme 3: Plasticity and Memory

Cognitive Aging

My main expertise is cognitive aging, for which I examine cognitive performance across the lifespan as well as in pathological aging. Part of my research focuses on brain morphological correlates of cognitive decline in both normal and pathological aging. Crucial questions I try to answer are which morphological changes are uniquely associated with cognitive aging and how cognitive and neuroanatomical changes independently predict functional independence. In addition, in my studies I examine the possibility of strategy use to enhance memory performance in aging, combining experimental studies in healthy aging with memory training studies in adults with (subjective) memory problems. I moreover examine the role of cognitive reserve in this, exploring how cognitive reserve influences aging as well as the beneficial effects of memory strategy use.

An important part of my work is focused on the question of which neurocognitive functions are associated with experimental pain experience and clinical pain report, primarily in aging. In order to study this, I employ a multi-dimensional approach, using experimental approaches combined with MRI and EEG in healthy younger and older volunteers, together with clinical pain studies in chronic pain patients and in older people with dementia. In these diverse studies, questions I target are how different cognitive functions are associated with the presence of pain and the experience of pain. Moreover, I am interested in how the underlying pathology of dementia subtypes is associated with potential changes in pain report and pain experience. I have also set up the first ‘pain in impaired cognition’ research group in the Netherlands, to create a strong national research network. Within this network, we combine expertise from the field of psychology, medicine and care to create a strong pain in cognitive impairment research group.

Name: Joukje Oosterman
Telephone: 024-3668294
Fax: 024-3611951
Visiting address:

Donders Centre for Cognition
Montessorilaan 3
6500 HE Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Postal address:

Donders Centre for Cognition
Postbus 9104
6500 HE Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Key publications
  • Frankenmolen NL, Altgassen M, Kessels R, de Waal MM, Hindriksen JA, Verhoeven B, Fasotti L, Scheres A, Kessels RP, Oosterman JM. Intelligence moderates the benefits of strategy instructions on memory performance: an adult-lifespan examination. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 2017; 24: 45-61.
  • Oosterman JM, Veldhuijzen DS. On the interplay between chronic pain and age with regard to neurocognitive integrity: Two interacting conditions? Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2016; 69: 174-192.

  • Overdorp EJ, Kessels RPC, Claassen JA, Oosterman JM. The combined effect of neuropsychological and neuropathological deficits on instrumental activities of daily living in older adults: a systematic review. Neuropsychol Rev 2016; 26: 92-106.

  • Defrin R, Amanzio M, de Tommaso M, Dimova V, Filipovic S, Finn DP, Gimenez-Llort L, Invitto S, Jensen-Dahm C, Lautenbacher L, Oosterman JM, Petrini L, Pick CG, Pickering G, Vase L, Kunz M. Experimental pain processing in individuals with cognitive impairment: state of the art. Pain 2015; 156: 1396-1408.

  • Scherder EJ, Plooij B, Achterberg WP, Pieper M, Wiegersma M, Lobbezoo F, Oosterman JM. Chronic pain in "probable" vascular dementia: preliminary findings. Pain Med 2015; 16: 442-450.

Key grants and prizes:

  • 2013 – 2017 Research grant (PI) provided by Fonds NutsOhra. Title: The effectiveness of memory-strategy training in older adults with subjective memory complaints. An RCT.
  • 2013 – 2014 IASP Early Career Research Grant. Title: An Inhibition Approach to Chronic Pain.
  • 2011 – 2015 COST Action TD1005 (co-applicant)

Info on projects

  • 2013 – 2017 Memory strategy training in elderly with a disproportionate decline in memory functioning: an RCT (funded by Fonds NutsOhra). In this project, we compare strategy with restorative memory training in adults with subjective memory complaints. This project in conducted in collaboration with the Geriatrics Department of the Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, and the memory clinical of Gelre Ziekenhuizen, Zutphen.

  • 2011 – 2015 COST Action TD1005: This COST Action brings together leading researchers from a wide range of scientific disciplines. The major aim is the development of a comprehensive and internationally agreed-on assessment toolkit for older adults targeting the various subtypes of dementia and various aspects of pain, including pain diagnostics, cognitive examination and guidelines for proper assessment. Validation of this toolkit requires joint action of both basic and clinical sciences. Only hereby, the urgently needed improvement of pain management in dementia can start.

  • 2013-2014 An inhibition approach to chronic pain (funded by the International Association for the Study on Pain). Here we examine to which extent inhibitory functions predict future postoperative pain. This project in conducted in collaboration with the Department of Surgery, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen.

Back to:
Theme 3:
Plasticity and Memory

Research Group
Cognitive Aging

Principal Investigator
Joukje Oosterman

Group members

Dimana Atanassova
Zoë Boersen
Michelle Jansen
Janienke Lier
Mark van Loenen
Hilde van Pelt
Mariska van Pouderoijen