Psychometric Characteristics of Cognitive Reserve: How High Education Might Improve Certain Cognitive Abilities in Aging.Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2019; 47(4-6):335-344.DG
The capacity to mitigate dementia symptomology despite the prevailing brain pathology has been attributed to cognitive reserve.
This study aimed to investigate how psychometric performance differs between individuals with a high school versus college education (surrogate measures for medium and high cognitive reserves) given the same level of brain pathology assessed using quantitative structural MRI.
We used data from the Aging Brain: Vasculature, Ischemia, and Behavior Study (ABVIB). Cognition was assessed using a neuropsychological battery that included those contained in the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center (NACC) uniform data set. Participants with a medium and high cognitive reserve were matched by level of structural MRI changes, gender, and age.
Matched-pair regression analyses indicated that individuals with a higher education had a significantly better performance in recognition and verbal fluency animals, working memory, and processing speed in complex tasks. Moreover, they had a better performance in interference trails compared to individuals with a high school education (medium cognitive reserve).
Our findings suggest that, given the same level of brain pathology, individuals with a higher education (cognitive reserve) benefit from a superior performance in semantic memory and executive functioning. Differences in these cognitive domains may be key pathways explaining how individuals with a high cognitive reserve are able to diminish dementia symptomatology despite physical changes in the brain.