Brain imaging study supports the 'cognitive reserve' hypothesis

Nov 10, 2008

Individuals with higher education levels appear to score higher on cognitive tests despite having evidence of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Neurology.

The cognitive reserve hypothesis holds that individuals with greater cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) abilities are able to delay symptoms of Alzheimer's disease despite underlying changes in the brain, according to background information in the article. Education is commonly used as a substitute measure of cognitive reserve. "Adjusting for level of Alzheimer disease pathological burden determined at autopsy, greater education has been associated with better cognitive function during life," the authors write. "Education interacts with Alzheimer disease pathological burden such that a greater pathological burden is required to show an effect on cognition among persons with more education."

Catherine M. Roe, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, studied 37 individuals with dementia of the Alzheimer type and 161 individuals without dementia between 2003 and 2008. Participants reported their education history and took cognitive tests. They were injected with a marker known as carbon 11–labeled Pittsburgh Compound B ([11C]PiB) and then underwent a 60-minute positron emission tomography (PET) scan of the brain. Recent studies have shown that [11C]PiB adheres to beta-amyloid brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease, allowing researchers to identify these characteristics of the disease in living patients.

The level of [11C]PiB uptake interacted significantly with years of education in predicting cognitive test scores. Among individuals whose brains took up higher levels of [11C]PiB, indicating the presence of beta-amyloid plaques, performance on the test increased with increasing education levels. Education was not associated with cognitive scores among those with low [11C]PiB uptake, indicating no plaques.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Dual role: Key cell division proteins also power up mitochondria

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cows are smarter when raised in pairs

Feb 26, 2014

Cows learn better when housed together, which may help them adjust faster to complex new feeding and milking technologies on the modern farm, a new University of British Columbia study finds.

IBM brings Watson to Africa

Feb 06, 2014

IBM has launched a 10-year initiative to bring Watson and other cognitive systems to Africa in a bid to fuel development and spur business opportunities across the world's fastest growing continent. Dubbed ...

Science denied: Why does doubt persist?

Oct 12, 2012

The sign in front of the tall display case at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History lures visitors to "meet one of your oldest relatives." Inside stands a morganucodon, a mouse-like animal ...

Piano plague in D minor

Sep 05, 2012

Why would 19th-century doctors want to ban piano lessons for girls? Did they truly believe that learning to play music could cause sexual and neurotic disorders? Or were there sociological reasons for picking ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

10 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

22 hours ago

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...