Predictors of Long-Term Change in Adult Cognitive Performance: Systematic Review and Data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966

Clin Neuropsychol. 2016;30(1):17-50. doi: 10.1080/13854046.2015.1128000. Epub 2016 Jan 6.


Objective: Several social life events and challenges have an impact on cognitive development. Our goal was to analyze the predictors of change in cognitive performance in early midlife in a general population sample. Additionally, systematic literature review was performed.

Method: The study sample was drawn from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 at the ages of 34 and 43 years. Primary school performance, sociodemographic factors and body mass index (BMI) were used to predict change in cognitive performance measured by the California Verbal Learning Test, Visual Object Learning Test, and Abstraction Inhibition and Working Memory task. Analyses were weighted by gender and education, and p-values were corrected for multiple comparisons using Benjamini-Hochberg procedure (B-H).

Results: Male gender predicted decrease in episodic memory. Poor school marks of practical subjects, having no children, and increase in BMI were associated with decrease in episodic memory, though non-significantly after B-H. Better school marks, and higher occupational class were associated with preserved performance in visual object learning. Higher vocational education predicted preserved performance in visual object learning test, though non-significantly after B-H. Likewise, having children predicted decreased performance in executive functioning but non-significantly after B-H.

Conclusions: Adolescent cognitive ability, change in BMI and several sociodemographic factors appear to predict cognitive changes in early midlife. The key advantage of present study is the exploration of possible predictors of change in cognitive performance among general population in the early midlife, a developmental period that has been earlier overlooked.

Keywords: Birth Cohort.; Cognitive ability; Follow-up; Middle age; Predictor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cognition*
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors