Education, work and social life can help protect the brain from cognitive decline

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 amount of plaques have problems with memory and thinking? In a study published in the August 3, 2022 online issue of Neurology®the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

They found that factors such as participation in clubs, religious groups, sports or artistic activities, as well as level of education at age 26, occupation and reading ability, can affect 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 tests in childhood. Previous studies have shown that people with low scores in childhood are more likely to have more pronounced cognitive decline in old age than people with high scores.

“These findings are exciting because they indicate that cognitive ability is subject to factors throughout our lives and that participating 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 rewarding childhood and provide stronger mental resilience until later in life. ‘see you later in life.

The study looked at 1,184 people born in 1946 in the UK. They took cognitive tests at age eight and again at age 69. A cognitive reserve index combined people’s level of education at age 26, participation in rewarding leisure activities at age 43, and occupation up to age 53. Their reading ability at age 53 was also tested as a measure of lifelong learning, independent of education and occupation.

The cognitive test that participants took at age 69 has a maximum total score of 100. The average score for this group was 92, with the lowest score being 53 and the highest score being 100.

The researchers found that higher cognitive skills during childhood, higher cognitive reserve index, and higher reading ability were all associated with higher cognitive test scores at age 69. rating increased by 0.10 points on average. For each unit of increase in cognitive reserve index, cognitive scores increased by 0.07 points on average, and for each unit of increase in reading ability, cognitive scores increased by 0.22 points on average.

People with a bachelor’s degree or other higher education qualifications scored on average 1.22 points higher than people with no formal education. People who participated in six or more leisure activities such as adult education classes, clubs, volunteering, social activities and gardening scored on average 1.53 points higher than people who participated to up to four leisure activities. Those in professional or mid-level jobs score on average 1.5 points higher than those in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs.

The study also found that for people with higher cognitive reserve index and reading ability, their cognitive test scores did not decline as quickly as people with lower scores, regardless of their test scores at the age of eight.

Michal Schnaider Beeri, PhD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, said: “From a public health and societal perspective, it There can be vast long-term benefits from investing in education, expanding opportunities for leisure activities and providing cognitively stimulating activities to people, especially those in less skilled jobs. “

A limitation of the study is that people who remained involved in the study until age 69 may be more likely to be healthier, have better overall thinking skills, and be more socially advantaged than those who did not complete the study, so the results may not be reflective of the general population.

The study was supported by the Alzheimer’s Society of the UK, the UK Medical Research Council, the US National Institute on Aging and the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

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Material provided by American Academy of Neurology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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