Interesting facts from A to Z

You may come across unfamiliar or new terms when learning about the Rhineland Study and how to participate. The Rhineland Study team has created this glossary to help you understand words and phrases related to the Rhineland Study.


The term biomarker or biological marker refers to several measures that record what is going on in a cell or organism at a particular time. Unlike symptoms reported by individuals, biomarkers are objective medical signs that can be used to measure the presence or progression of a disease or the effects of a treatment. Examples of biomarkers are blood pressure, heart rate but also fever or genetic tests. Biomarkers are measurable and do not indicate how a person feels or functions.

Biosamples / Biomaterial

Biosamples or biospecimen are samples of the human body, such as blood, urine, stool or hair, that are used in scientific medicine for research purposes. A single biospecimen can be used for various future research purposes. The exact intended use is often not known at the time the sample is donated.

Capillary vascular system

Besides veins and arteries, capillaries are the third type of vessel in the human body. Capillaries are micro vessels and belong to the exchange vessels of our body through which an exchange of gas and substances occurs between the blood and the surrounding tissue.

Cardiovascular examinations

Cardiovascular examinations refer to your heart or also to your vessels (e.g., measuring blood pressure and pulse or performing a resting ECG).


Cortisol is a hormone involved in many metabolic processes and is released by the body during stress. One way to detect long-term stress is to measure the amount of the hormone cortisol stored in the hair. For this purpose, a thin strand of hair is non-invasively taken from the back of participants’ heads.


The protection of data and the privacy of all participants has top priority. Within the Rhineland Study, the data protection regulations of the Federal Data Protection Act and other applicable legal rules and regulations are compiled and all data are treated confidentially.

Based on the legal rules and regulations, a separate data protection concept was developed for data collection and protection. It has been positively evaluated by the TMF - Technologie- und Methodenplattform für die vernetzte medizinische Forschung e. V. (Technology and Methods Platform for Networked Medical Research). All personal identifying data are stored with an external data trustee (HKF Systems GmbH, Rathausstraße 12, 53225 Bonn). The Rhineland Study is conducted in accordance with the regulations of the Guidelines and Recommendations for Safeguarding Good Epidemiological Practice (GEP) of the German Society for Epidemiology e.V.


Dementia is a general term for a broad spectrum of diseases associated with loss of memory, language, problem-solving, or other thinking skills. It is a disease of the brain and nervous system. The best-known dementia disease is Alzheimer's disease.


The Rhineland Study is conducted by the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases e.V. (DZNE). The DZNE was founded in 2009 on the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as an institution within the Helmholtz Association. The DZNE researches the causes of diseases in the brain and nervous system and develops measures for prevention, therapy, care and patient care.


Electrocardiogram (ECG) is an examination method in which the heart's electrical activity is recorded with an electrocardiograph.


Our field of research is epidemiological population research. Epidemiological here means that the study investigates the spread and course of diseases in the population and attempts to detect patterns and identify factors that play a role in the development of diseases.

Fundus photography

Fundus photography is high-resolution photography of the retina. This allows retinal changes to be examined that are related to ageing and various diseases of the eye. Examples are deposits under the retina (so-called drusen) and retinal changes caused by the body and central nervous system, such as changes in the retinal vessels.

Impedance cardiography

This impedance cardiography measures parameters such as blood volume, the velocity of blood flow, and vascular stiffness.

Incidental finding

Incidental findings are abnormalities discovered for the first time in scientific investigations. They differ from (extreme) examination results (e.g. very high blood pressure) in that they are anomalies noticed by chance (e.g. cysts), the detection of which is not the primary aim of the examination. If we see such a possible abnormality, an expert committee decides whether medical clarification is useful or necessary. In that case, we will explicitly point this out to you, even if you do not wish to receive any feedback.

Investigation results

During the examinations of the Rhineland Study, various examination data are collected for research purposes. If you agree in your declaration of consent to be informed of selected examination results, you will receive a written summary of clinically relevant examination results (such as laboratory values) and other selected results at the end of the examination.

We will inform you of the results that provide interpretable results for the individual case (values for which clinical reference values exist and/or clear interpretability is possible).


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging procedure that can show tissue structures with the help of a magnetic field using radio waves. It is a safe and painless method with no known harmful effects on the human body. No contrast media are used in the Rhineland Study. However, there are reasons why we do not perform MRI examinations for special safety reasons.  These are, for example, pregnancy or a pacemaker.

Multicolour examination

The multicolour examination is an image of the retina for which three different colours (wavelengths: blue, green and infrared) are used simultaneously. This technique is particularly useful for visualising changes in the border area between the retina and the vitreous body.

Neurodegenerative disease

"Neurodegeneration" is a pathological process that damages nerve cells and causes them to die. Depending on which area of the nervous system is affected, neurodegeneration can lead for example to dementia or trigger movement disorders. Neurodegenerative diseases include, for example Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's or Huntington disease.

Person-Identifying Data

Person-identifying data such as name, address or telephone number can be assigned to persons and identify them. Examples are name, address or telephone number.

Person-Related Data

Personal data is any information relating to an identified or identifiable living individual. This also includes partial information that together can lead to the identification of a specific person. Examples include general personal data such as date of birth and age, but also physical characteristics (gender, hair and eye colour) or ownership characteristics (vehicle and property ownership or registration data).

Population Research

Population research uses large groups of people to investigate the causes and risk factors of diseases - and also their frequency in the population.


Population studies help to identify the causes of disease and health in the general population. Many neurodegenerative and age-related diseases in particular develop over decades due to a complex interplay of genetic factors, lifestyle and environmental influences. In order to understand what makes healthy people diseased or what keeps them healthy or more resistant to disease, long-term observations based on a large number of different people are necessary.


Prevention or screening in health refers to health care to maintain or promote people's health.


At the examination centre, your data will already be pseudonymized during the examination. This means that the data is given a random identification number and is forwarded directly to our database. The identification number does not allow any conclusion to your personally identifiable data. For the scientific evaluation at the DZNE, your data will be re-pseudonymized, meaning a random identification number will be assigned to your data again.

Skin Laser Doppler Flowmetry

Skin Laser Doppler Flowmetry is a non-invasive technique to assess the function of the capillary vascular system through various provocation tests. The measurement principle is based on detecting changes in blood flow in the vascular system during provocation tests.

Study Assistance

Our study assistants conduct all examinations. They are medical and scientific trained personnel with very different backgrounds (e.g. medical assistants, nurses, physiotherapists, etc.). The study assistants are all professionally trained and certified to conduct the examinations. We also continuously check the quality of all examinations and adjust them if necessary.


Tympanometry involves using a probe to measure the ability of the eardrum to vibrate.

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