Efficiency, capacity, compensation, maintenance, plasticity: emerging concepts in cognitive reserve

Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Oct;17(10):502-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.08.012. Epub 2013 Sep 7.


Cognitive reserve (CR) is a concept meant to account for the frequent discrepancy between an individual's measured level of brain pathology and her expected cognitive performance. It is particularly important within the context of aging and dementia, but has wider applicability to all forms of brain damage. As such, it has intimate links to related compensatory and neuroprotective concepts, as well as to the related notion of brain reserve. In this article, we introduce the concept of cognitive reserve and explicate its potential cognitive and neural implementation. We conclude that cognitive reserve is compatible and complementary with many related concepts, but that each much draw sharper conceptual boundaries in order to truly explain preserved cognitive function in the face of aging or brain damage.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; aging; cognitive reserve; epidemiology; imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cognitive Reserve / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*