Education Not Tied to Rate of Cognitive Change in Seniors

FRIDAY, Feb. 8, 2019 — Education is associated with global cognition but not with the rate of cognitive change in older adults, according to a study published online Feb. 6 in Neurology.

Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues examined the contribution of education to cognitive reserve in a longitudinal clinical-pathologic cohort study involving 2,899 older participants who had annual cognitive testing, including a subgroup of 696 who developed incident dementia. Neuropathologic examination had been completed in 752 participants who had died.

Participants had a mean of 16.3 years of education. The researchers found that education correlated with initial level of global cognition but not the rate of cognitive change in all participants. The rate of global cognitive decline accelerated a mean of 1.8 years before diagnosis in those who developed dementia; education was not associated with the onset or rate of accelerated decline. The rate of global cognitive decline accelerated a mean of 3.4 years before death in the deceased; higher educational attainment correlated with earlier onset of accelerated decline and was not related to the rate of acceleration. There was a correlation for higher education with lower likelihood of gross and microscopic cerebral infarcts but not with other neuropathologic markers.

“That education apparently contributes little to cognitive reserve is surprising given its association with cognitive growth and changes in brain structure,” the authors write.

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Posted: February 2019

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