Education protects against pre-Alzheimer's memory loss

Oct 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: Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Understanding how the brain retrieves memories

Jul 17, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Livermore scientists are developing electrode array technology for monitoring brain activity as part of a collaborative research project with UC San Francisco to better understand how the ...

Recommended for you

Obama addresses West Africans on facts about Ebola

7 hours ago

President Barack Obama urged West Africans on Tuesday to wear gloves and masks when caring for Ebola patients or burying anyone who died of the disease. He also discouraged the traditional burial practice ...

Gluten-free diet benefits asymptomatic EmA+ adults

7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Asymptomatic individuals with endomysial antibodies (EmA) benefit from a gluten-free diet (GFD), according to a study published in the September issue of Gastroenterology.

Another US health worker infected with Ebola

8 hours ago

A third American health worker has tested positive for the Ebola virus while working with patients in West Africa, the Christian missionary group SIM said Tuesday.

UN implores all countries to help on Ebola

10 hours ago

The international group Doctor Without Borders warned Tuesday that the world is 'losing the battle' against Ebola, while U.N. officials implored all countries to quickly step up their response by contributing health experts ...

Travel restrictions could worsen Ebola crisis: experts

14 hours ago

Travel restrictions could worsen West Africa's Ebola epidemic, limiting medical and food supplies and keeping out much-needed doctors, virologists said Tuesday as the disease continued its deadly spread.

User comments : 1

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. :)