Cognitive activities during adulthood are more important than education in building reserve

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2011 Jul;17(4):615-24. doi: 10.1017/S1355617711000014.


Cognitive reserve is thought to reflect life experiences. Which experiences contribute to reserve and their relative importance is not understood. Subjects were 652 autopsied cases from the Rush Memory and Aging Project and the Religious Orders Study. Reserve was defined as the residual variance of the regressions of cognitive factors on brain pathology and was captured in a latent variable that was regressed on potential determinants of reserve. Neuropathology variables included Alzheimer's disease markers, Lewy bodies, infarcts, microinfarcts, and brain weight. Cognition was measured with six cognitive domain scores. Determinants of reserve were socioeconomic status (SES), education, leisure cognitive activities at age 40 (CA40) and at study enrollment (CAbaseline) in late life. The four exogenous predictors of reserve were weakly to moderately inter-correlated. In a multivariate model, all except SES had statistically significant effects on Reserve, the strongest of which were CA40 (β = .31) and CAbaseline (β = .28). The Education effect was negative in the full model (β = -.25). Results suggest that leisure cognitive activities throughout adulthood are more important than education in determining reserve. Discrepancies between cognitive activity and education may be informative in estimating late life reserve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Autopsy
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognitive Reserve / physiology*
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Nutritional Status
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors