Background and aims: The concept of "reserve" has been used to explain the difference between individuals in their capacity to cope with or compensate for pathology. Brain reserve refers to structural aspects of the brain, such as brain size and synapse count. Cognitive reserve is the ability to optimize and maximize performance through two mechanisms: recruitment of brain networks, and/or compensation by alternative cognitive strategies. The aim of the present research was to devise an instrument for comprehensive assessment and measurement of the quantity of cognitive reserve accumulated by individuals throughout their lifespan.
Methods: A new approach using the Cognitive Reserve Index questionnaire (CRIq) was developed and tested in a sample of 588 healthy individuals, from 18 to 102 years old, stratified by age (Young, Adults, Elderly) and gender. The CRIq includes demographic data and items grouped into three sections: education, working activity and leisure time, each of which returns a subscore. The WAIS Vocabulary test and TIB were also administered.
Results: The main descriptive features and some inferential results are described. Intelligence was only moderately correlated with cognitive reserve, stressing the distinction between these two concepts. Age and gender significantly affected CRIq scores, whereas no effect emerged from their interaction. Adults showed a higher score than Young and Elderly.
Conclusions: This study provides a new instrument for a standardized measure of the cognitive reserve accumulated by individuals through their lifespan. The potential use of the CRIq in both experimental research and clinical practice is discussed.