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: Fighting back against superbugs

Related Stories

Monkeys can learn to see themselves in the mirror

Jan 08, 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 Jan ...

Research reveals structure of key CRISPR complex

Dec 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.

The truth about the war on wheat

Oct 03, 2014

If you believe the best-seller lists, the biggest bad in the supermarket aisles is not fat or sodium or sugar, but wheat. We have been warned that eating wheat makes our bellies fatter and triggers diseases ...

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

Fighting back against superbugs

46 minutes ago

Antibiotics—and antibiotic resistance—are in the news once again, with announcements by McDonald's and Costco that they will eliminate antibiotics that are important to human medicine from use in the ...

Harnessing the power of microbes as therapeutics

1 hour ago

A new report recently released by the American Academy of Microbiology discusses how specific microbes can be modified to enhance their therapeutic potential for treating human diseases such as cancer and antibiotic resistant ...

New genetic link found for alcohol-related liver cirrhosis

1 hour ago

In most people, any liver damage that might occur from drinking alcohol is reversible. However, in 25 to 30 percent of alcoholics what begins as accumulation of fat in the liver progresses to inflammation, fibrosis and ultimately ...

Could camel antibodies protect humans from MERS?

2 hours ago

Antibodies from dromedary camels protected uninfected mice from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and helped infected mice expunge the disease, according to a study published online March 18th in the ...

Sierra Leone ends anti-Ebola lockdown after three days

6 hours ago

Sierra Leoneans were once again allowed to leave their homes Sunday evening after the government announced the end of a three-day nationwide lockdown aimed at preventing a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus.

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. :)

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.