Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience


LIFE Study

LIFE study

The impact of lifestyle interventions on mood, cognition, and the brain.

Life Study Logo

Here at the Neuroscience and Mental Health lab, we are a team of cognitive neuroscientists who believe everyone has the right to lead a happy, healthy life. We study the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying psychiatric symptoms.  

We need participants who are willing to take part in our study to help us understand how different activities might affect mood, cognition, and the brain.

We hope that this research will tell us who benefits from which activities and how. Potential participants should be advised that taking part in this study does not affect any other care they may be receiving.

What does the study involve?

First, we will ask you to REMOTELY complete a quick questionnaire online to determine whether you are eligible for the study via THIS LINK. We will contact you within 2 weeks to invite you to the study (or let you know that you are not eligible).

In VISIT 1, we will invite you to meet the research team (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Square, London) and we will answer any questions you have. If you are happy to enrol on the study, we will give you an activity monitor watch to wear for the next 5 weeks. This session should take around 1.5 hours.

After a week of wearing the watch, we will invite you to come for VISIT 2 (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Square, London), in which you will complete a questionnaire to help us to understand your current and past mood and experiences, complete some fun cognitive games online, conduct a 5-minute assessment of your fitness, and we will set up the app on your phone to carry out mood ratings.

There are no right or wrong answers to any of the questions and we strongly encourage people of all fitness levels to consider being involved.

We will next invite you to attend 3 activity sessions per week for the next 4 weeks (around the corner from the previous visit, at the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health, 170 Tottenham Court Road). Each session will be 45 minutes in length. For these 12 sessions you will be randomly allocated to either take part in a stretching activity, or moderate physical activity, both under the supervision of a qualified personal trainer.

During this time, you will REMOTELY complete online cognitive tasks and mental health questionnaires (this will take no more than 1.5 hours, once per week), and shortened versions of the questionnaires via a smartphone app (no more than 5 minutes, twice per day). Both can be completed at a time that suits you.

You will be invited back for VISIT 4 to complete the cognitive tasks and psychological questionnaires for a final time, and (if you are eligible) undergo a brain scan (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Square, London). You will give back the activity monitor. This session, including the scan, will take around 3 hours.

 Importantly, it is very much possible to participate even if you do not want to undergo the brain scan.

The two study sites are based close to one another in central London.

VISITS 1, 2 and 4 will be at UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AZ.

The activity sessions will be at the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health, 170 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7HA.

Will I be reimbursed for my time?

Yes, you will earn £96 for full participation in the study (£81.00 if you do not undergo the brain scan in part four), and you will have the chance to earn up to an additional £15 while playing the cognitive tasks. If you withdraw from the study early, or are not able to complete all parts, you will earn £9 per hour that you participated.

Where can I find out more?

If you are interested in signing up you can complete our online screening form here. Additionally, a copy of the participant information sheet can be found here. this provides more details about the study and what you can expect. If you have any questions, or would like to get in touch, you can email the research team directly at icn.life@ucl.ac.uk

Are there any eligibility criteria?

You may not be eligible to take part if:

  • You do vigorous activity more than once per week,
  • You have a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder,
  • You regularly use substances other than cigarettes or alcohol,
  • You have any neurological disorder or long-term health condition that has an impact on brain function,
  • If you are easily claustrophobic, have problems lying on your back for an extended period, or have magnetic metal in your body, you may still be able to participate, but you may not be able to take part in the brain scan (this is because you will need to lie still for an extended period of time while your head is in an enclosed space for the brain scan in part four of the project)

If you are unsure about any of these criteria or have any questions about your suitability, you can contact the research team at icn.life@ucl.ac.uk


All personal data will be collected and stored in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations.