The ProBrain Lab at National College of Ireland is jointly led by Dr Michelle Kelly, Associate Professor in Psychology and Dr Caoimhe Hannigan, Assistant Professor in Psychology.

ProBrain (Promoting Brain Health in Ageing) Lab at NCI The ProBrain Lab is a currently active research lab within the Health, Well-being and Cognition research stream at NCI.


ProBrain (Promoting Brain Health in Ageing) Lab

The rapid growth of the ageing population worldwide brings opportunities linked to the wealth of knowledge and experience that older adults contribute to our communities, but also brings significant challenges associated with increasing health, social, and economic support needs associated with ageing. Perhaps one of the most significant of these challenges is the potential for considerable increases in the incidence of cognitive decline. Advanced age is the single greatest risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases that cause dementia, and even in the absence of neurodegenerative pathology, normal ageing is typically associated with some decline in cognitive function.

Brain health refers to the state of an individual’s brain function across several domains including cognitive, motor, emotional and sensory functioning. As confirmed by the World Health Organisation, optimal brain health allows us to realise our full potential across the lifespan, irrespective of the presence or absence of disorders.

Considerable variability is observed in brain health outcomes in later life. While age is the primary risk factor for dementia, dementia is not an inevitable outcome of ageing. Most older adults who do not have a neurodegenerative disease will experience subtle declines in several cognitive domains. However, some older adults show little or no decline in cognition and continue to perform at extremely high levels in old age. A range of risk and protective factors have been identified that may be associated with brain health and may contribute to the minimization of cognitive decline and preservation of cognitive function in later life.

The ProBrain lab at National College of Ireland is jointly led by Dr Michelle Kelly and Dr Caoimhe Hannigan, both Assistant Professors in Psychology. Dr Kelly and Dr Hannigan each have over 10 years of experience in research related to cognitive ageing. Our lab takes a lifespan approach to brain health, with a focus on:

  • Understanding modifiable risk and protective factors for dementia and cognitive decline
  • Understanding the influence of psychosocial and psychological factors on cognitive function in later life
  • Developing, designing and evaluating interventions that can support brain health and preservation of cognitive function for people living with dementia
  • Identifying effective interventions that can support those who care for people living with dementia
  • Increasing public awareness and understanding of brain health, dementia, and dementia prevention


A key feature of our lab is a focus on multidisciplinary collaboration – currently we collaborate with researchers, clinicians, policy makers and other colleagues in organisations including:

  • Global Brain Health Institute
  • School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin
  • School of Psychology, Ulster University
  • Centre for Public Health, Queens University Belfast
  • Department of Mathematics and Science, University of Limerick
  • Faculty of Medical Science, University of Newcastle
  • International CST Centre, University College London
  • St James’ Hospital, Dublin
  • The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland



May 22nd 2024 - "Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for People with Dementia: An evaluation of barriers and facilitators to intervention delivery in Ireland".

This report, led by NCI Psychology Professors Dr Michelle Kelly and Dr Caoimhe Hannigan, along with the research team at the ProBrain Lab and the project partners at The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, details the results of this Irish Research Council (IRC)-funded project which found that:

  • People with dementia and their families, as well as healthcare and policy professionals are motivated to support increased availability of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy in Ireland. 
  • Key barriers and facilitators to offering Cognitive Stimulation Therapy include funding, staff capacity, communication amongst healthcare professionals, coordinated approaches to delivery, and awareness of the benefits of CST.

To review the full report, please click on the link below: