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Education and Cognitive Reserve Fight Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, November 12, 2008 11:42 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Nursing Home and Elder Abuse

A cognitive reserve may indicate how you withstand dementia.



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ Alzheimer’s Dad/ author: JJRD


More evidence that education levels and intellectual activity decrease the horrors of Alzheimer’s disease.

In this study, published in the November issue of the Archives of Neurology, an advanced brain scanning technology, PET or positron emission tomography scanned the brains of 37 people with Alzheimer’s type dementia. 

161 people had no dementia at all.

They received an injection of radio-carbon-labeled compound that attaches to amyloid plaques in the brain, an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Participants were given thinking tests that included problem solving and memory. 

In people with a low uptake, indicating less plaque, there was no correlation to education in their cognitive scores. 

But for people who had more plaque, researchers found the more education they had, the lessening of the symptoms of dementia. 

Researchers believe a “cognitive reserve,” that allows some people to better process information, allows them to cope better with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, Yaakov Stern, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at Columbia University predicts that people with the greater cognitive reserve, “are walking around with more pathology than they exhibit,” he told the Washington Post.

Increasing your cognitive reserve?

That’s unclear at this time whether people can consciously increase their cognitive reserve but remaining active, both physically and mentally, might make a difference.

Having more years of formal schooling has shown to help delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s,  including memory loss. The education itself may work to create a greater “cognitive reserve” in individuals, allowing the mind to work against the damage.

“We really need controlled studies,” Stern says. 

  • Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • One in eight people 65 or older has the disease.
  • Every 71 seconds, in America, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease.
  • There are about 10 million Alzheimer caregivers in the United States.
  • An estimated 5.2 Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, that number will likely increase to 16 million.

 The study was conducted at the neurology department at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.   #

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