Cognitive activity protects against age-related decline

January, 2010

A large study has found evidence that frequent cognitive activity can counteract the detrimental effect of poor education on at least one aspect of age-related cognitive decline -- episodic memory.

A study (“Midlife in the United States”) assessing 3,343 men and women aged 32-84 (mean age 56), of whom almost 40% had at least a 4-year college degree, has found evidence that frequent cognitive activity can counteract the detrimental effect of poor education on age-related cognitive decline. Although, as expected, those with higher education engaged in cognitive activities more often and did better on the memory tests, those with lower education who engaged in reading, writing, attending lectures, doing word games or puzzles once or week or more had memory scores similar to people with more education on tests of episodic memory (although this effect did not occur for executive functioning).

Reference: 

[651] Lachman ME, Agrigoroaei S, Murphy C, Tun PA. Frequent cognitive activity compensates for education differences in episodic memory. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry: Official Journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry [Internet]. 2010 ;18(1):4 - 10. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20094014