Cognitive Abilities Strong Among Highly Educated Alzheimer's Test Subjects

A study conducted by scientists at the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed a clear relationship between educational level and cognitive ability, even in test subjects with brain pathology indicative of Alzheimer's Disease.

The scientists postulated a theory they called "cognitive reserve;" the "improved abilities in thinking, learning and memory that result from regularly challenging and making use of the brain."

To prove this theory the Washington University researchers, led by Catherine Roe, Ph.D., research instructor in neurology, first conducted brain scans using an imaging agent called Pittsburgh Compound B (PIB), a compound that reveals the presence of amyloid plaques, the type of plaques associated with Alzheimer's Disease. Some of the participants showed little or no evidence of the amyloid plaques, but they remained in the study.

Then, all the participants took various cognitive tests to determine their cognitive abilities; they also indicated their level of education: high school or lower, college or college degree, and postgraduate studies or degree.

The results showed that 1) those that did not show evidence of amyloid plague in their brain scans performed well on the tests, regardless of their education; 2) most of those that showed evidence of amyloid plaque performed poorly on the cognitive tests, but; 3) those that had postgraduate education scored well on the cognitive tests, even though they had considerable evidence of amyloid plaques.

Dr, Roe and her team will continue research on other potential indicators of cognitive reserve, including other mental and social stimulation activities.

source: Science Daily; Photograph Credit: iStockphoto/Don Bayley via Science Daily

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