Older adults attending university show increases in cognitive reserve

Staying mentally active may stave off cognitive decline.

Question

What are the effects of taking university courses on cognitive reserve?

What was done?

459 participants between age 50-79 years were randomly assigned to a group that attending part-time university courses for a year or a or a control group who did not engage in education. Cognitive reserve was measured before and after the intervention.

What was found?

Those who participated in university study demonstrated greater cognitive reserve than those in the control group.

How does this affect me?

Staying mentally active, e.g. taking part time educational courses, may help to offset cognitive decline associated with ageing.

Article Abstract

Objective: Increasing an individual’s level of cognitive reserve (CR) has been suggested as a nonpharmacological approach to reducing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. We examined changes in CR in older adults participating over 4 years in the Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project. Method: A sample of 459 healthy older adults between 50 and 79 years of age underwent a comprehensive annual assessment of current CR, neuropsychological function, and psychosocial factors over a 4-year period. The intervention group of 359 older adults (M = 59.61 years, SD = 6.67) having completed a minimum of 12 months part-time university study were compared against a control reference group of 100 adults (M = 62.49 years, SD = 6.24) who did not engage in further education. Results: Growth mixture modeling demonstrated that 44.3% of the control sample showed no change in CR, whereas 92.5% of the further education participants displayed a significant linear increase in CR over the 4 years of the study. These results indicate that older adults engaging in high-level mental stimulation display an increase in CR over a 4-year period. Conclusion: Increasing mental activity in older adulthood may be a viable strategy to improve cognitive function and offset cognitive decline associated with normal aging.

Link to full article.

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