Why do some people with amyloid plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease show no signs of the disease, while others with the same number of plates have memory and reflection problems? In a study published in the August 3 online issue 2022 of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers examined the genetic and course factors of life that could help create a “cognitive reserve” that provides a buffer against disease..
They found that factors such as participation to clubs, religious groups, sports or artistic activities, as well as the level of education at 26 years, the occupation and the reading ability, can affect the cognitive reserve of the brain. The study suggests that continuing to learn throughout life can help protect the brain, which is true even for people who score lower on cognitive exams as children. Previous studies have shown that people with low scores in childhood are more likely to have more pronounced cognitive decline in later life than people with high scores.
“These findings are exciting because they indicate that cognitive ability is subject to factors throughout our lives and that participation in an intellectually, socially, and physically active lifestyle may help prevent cognitive decline. and dementia,” said study author Dorina Cadar, PhD, Brighton and Sussex School of Medicine in the UK. “Encouragingly, building up one’s cognitive reserve can offset the negative influence of low childhood cognition for people who may not have enjoyed a fulfilling childhood and provide greater mental resilience until later in life. ‘see you later in life.’
The study involved 1 184 people born in 1946 United Kingdom. They took cognitive tests at the age of eight and again at the age of 69 years. A cognitive reserve index combined people’s level of education at 26 years, participation in enriching leisure activities at 43 years and occupation up to 69 years. Their reading ability at 10 years was also tested as a measure of lifelong learning, independent of education and occupation.
The cognitive test that participants took at 69 years had a total most score of 184. The average rating for this group was 69, the lowest score being 53 and the highest rating of 69.
Researchers have found that higher cognitive skills during childhood , higher cognitive reserve index, and higher reading ability were all associated with higher cognitive test scores at 69 years. take rating increased by, 10 point on average. For each unit of increase in cognitive reserve index, cognitive scores increased by, 07 outcome on average, and for for each unit of increase in reading ability, cognitive scores increased by, 10 position on average.
People with a bachelor’s degree or other higher education qualifications obtained an average of 1,10 higher level than people without formal education. People who participated in six or more leisure activities such as adult education classes, golf equipment, volunteering, social activities and gardening scored an average of 1,53 position more than people who participated in up to four leisure activities. Those in professional or mid-level jobs get an average of 1.5 more internships than those in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs.
The study also found that for people with higher cognitive reserve index and higher reading ability, their cognitive test scores did not decline as quickly than people with lower scores, regardless of their test results at age eight.
Michal Schnaider Beeri, PhD, of the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai in New York, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, said: “From a public health and societal perspective, there may be broad long-term benefits to investing in education, expanding opportunities for leisure activities and providing cognitively stimulating activities for people, especially those who work in less skilled jobs.”
A limitation of the study is that people who remained involved in the study until the age of 69 years old may be more likely to be healthier, have better overall thinking skills, and be more socially advantaged than those who have not completed the study, so the results may not be reflective of the general population.
The study was supported by Alzheimer’s Culture UK, the Council of Medical Research UK, the American National Institute on Aging and the UK Economic and Social Research Council.