Open Access Research article

Mood and cognition in healthy older European adults: the Zenith study

Ellen EA Simpson19*, Elizabeth A Maylor3, Christopher McConville1, Barbara Stewart-Knox4, Natalie Meunier5, Maud Andriollo-Sanchez6, Angela Polito7, Federica Intorre6, Jacqueline M McCormack2 and Charles Coudray8

Author Affiliations

1 Psychology Research Institute, University of Ulster, Londonderry, UK

2 Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland, UK

3 Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

4 Division of Psychology, University of Bradford, Yorkshire, UK

5 CHU Clermont Ferrand, Unité d’Exploration en Nutrition, CRNH Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France

6 Université Joseph Fourier, Saint-Martin-d’Hères, France

7 Agricultural Research Council–Research Centre on Food and Nutrition (CRA-NUT), Rome, Italy

8 UMR 866 (Dynamique Musculaire & Métabolisme) INRA, Place Viala, Montpellier, France

9 School of Psychology, University of Ulster, Cromore Road, BT521SA Coleraine, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

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BMC Psychology 2014, 2:11  doi:10.1186/2050-7283-2-11

Published: 2 May 2014



The study aim was to determine if state and trait intra-individual measures of everyday affect predict cognitive functioning in healthy older community dwelling European adults (n = 387), aged 55-87 years.


Participants were recruited from centres in France, Italy and Northern Ireland. Trait level and variability in positive and negative affect (PA and NA) were assessed using self-administered PANAS scales, four times a day for four days. State mood was assessed by one PANAS scale prior to assessment of recognition memory, spatial working memory, reaction time and sustained attention using the CANTAB computerized test battery.


A series of hierarchical regression analyses were carried out, one for each measure of cognitive function as the dependent variable, and socio-demographic variables (age, sex and social class), state and trait mood measures as the predictors. State PA and NA were both predictive of spatial working memory prior to looking at the contribution of trait mood. Trait PA and its variability were predictive of sustained attention. In the final step of the regression analyses, trait PA variability predicted greater sustained attention, whereas state NA predicted fewer spatial working memory errors, accounting for a very small percentage of the variance (1-2%) in the respective tests.


Moods, by and large, have a small transient effect on cognition in this older sample.

Mood; Affect; PANAS; Cognition; CANTAB; Older adults