Education protects against pre-Alzheimer's memory loss

October 20, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – People with more education and more mentally demanding occupations may have protection against the memory loss that precedes Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the October 21, 2008, issue of Neurology.

The study involved 242 people with Alzheimer's disease, 72 people with mild cognitive impairment, and 144 people with no memory problems. Mild cognitive impairment is a transition stage when some memory problems are occurring beyond what is normal for a person's age but not the serious problems of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers tested the participants' memory and cognitive skills and used brain scans to measure the amount of brain glucose metabolism, which shows how much the brain has been affected by the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's disease. The participants were followed for an average of 14 months. During that time, 21 of the people with mild cognitive impairment developed Alzheimer's disease.

The study found that in people with the same level of memory impairment, people with more education and more mentally demanding jobs had significantly more changes and damage in their brains from Alzheimer's disease than people with less education and less mentally demanding jobs.

"The theory is that education and demanding jobs create a buffer against the effects of dementia on the brain, or a cognitive reserve," said study author Valentina Garibotto, MD, of the San Raffaele University and Scientific Institute and the National Institute of Neuroscience in Milan, Italy. "Their brains are able to compensate for the damage and allow them to maintain functioning in spite of damage. There are two possible explanations. The brain could be made stronger through education and occupational challenges. Or, genetic factors that enabled people to achieve higher education and occupational achievement might determine the amount of brain reserve. It isn't possible to determine which accounts for our findings."

The results were found in both people with Alzheimer's and people with mild cognitive impairment who developed Alzheimer's during the study, suggesting that the cognitive reserve is already in effect during the mild cognitive impairment phase before Alzheimer's begins, Garibotto said.

People with Alzheimer's disease and people with mild cognitive impairment who developed Alzheimer's during the study had metabolic dysfunction in the areas of the brain consistent with Alzheimer's disease, whereas the healthy people and those with mild cognitive impairment who did not develop Alzheimer's disease had no brain metabolism problems.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Explore further: Aluminium—a new factor in the decline of bee populations?

Related Stories

The most complete review of the peptide behind Alzheimer's

March 30, 2015

The hope is to be able, one day, to fight the pathogenic action of the amyloid-beta protein, whose build-up is associated with Alzheimer's disease. In the meantime, scientists—including a group from the International School ...

Monkeys can learn to see themselves in the mirror

January 8, 2015

Unlike humans and great apes, rhesus monkeys don't realize when they look in a mirror that it is their own face looking back at them. But, according to a report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on January 8, that ...

Research reveals structure of key CRISPR complex

December 10, 2014

Using a gene-editing system originally developed to delete specific genes, MIT researchers have now shown that they can reliably turn on any gene of their choosing in living cells.

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

carol7358
not rated yet Apr 06, 2009
When I saw the title of this article, I was prepared with a whole host of science professors from high ranking universities who have all succumbed severely to AD, much to my father's and my sadness. Fortunately I took the time to read the article instead of passing it off as more toff, and yes, I understand that both can be true now. A better title could have been chosen or perhaps I should berate myself for being so quick to judge or perhaps the title did just what the author's intended - got me to read it. :)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.