Bottom Line: Higher scores that gauged education (years of school completed) and occupation (based on attributes, complexities of a job), as well as higher levels of mid/late-life cognitive activity (e.g., reading books, participating in social activities and doing computer activities at least three times per week) were linked to better cognition in older patients.
Author: Prashanthi Vemuri, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic and Foundation, Rochester, Minn., and colleagues.
Background: Previous research has linked intellectual enrichment with possible protection against cognitive decline. The authors examined lifetime intellectual enrichment with baseline performance and the rate of cognitive decline in older patients without dementia and estimated the protection provided against cognitive decline.
How the Study Was Conducted: The authors studied 1,995 individuals (ages 70 to 89 years) without dementia (1,718 were cognitively normal and 277 individuals had mild cognitive impairment) in Olmsted County, Minnesota. They analyzed education/occupation scores and mid/late-life cognitive activity based on self-reports.
Results: Better education/occupation scores and mid/late-life cognitive activity were associated with better cognitive performance. The authors suggest high lifetime intellectual enrichment may delay the onset of cognitive impairment by almost nine years in carriers of the APOE4 genotype, a risk factor for Alzheimer disease, compared with low lifetime intellectual enrichment.
Discussion: "Lifetime intellectual enrichment might delay the onset of cognitive impairment and be used as a successful preventive intervention to reduce the impending dementia epidemic."
(JAMA Neurol. Published online June 23, 2014. doi:10.1001/.jamaneurol.2014.963. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)
Editor's Note: Authors made conflict of interest disclosures. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and other sources. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.
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