The brain mechanisms underlying the effect of intellectual enrichment may evolve along the normal aging Alzheimer's disease (AD) cognitive spectrum and may include both protective and compensatory mechanisms. We assessed the association between early intellectual enrichment (education, years) and average cortical florbetapir standardized uptake value ratio as well as performed voxel-wise analyses in a total of 140 participants, including cognitively normal older adults, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and AD patients. Higher education was associated with lower cortical florbetapir positron emission tomography (florbetapir-PET) uptake, notably in the frontal lobe in normal older adults, but with higher uptake in frontal, temporal, and parietal regions in MCI after controlling for global cognitive status. No association was found in AD. In MCI, we observed an increased fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) uptake with education within the regions of higher florbetapir-PET uptake, suggesting a compensatory increase. Early intellectual enrichment may be associated with protection and compensation for amyloid beta (Aβ) deposition later in life, before the onset of dementia. Previous investigations have been controversial as regard to the effects of intellectual enrichment variables on Aβ deposition; the present findings call for approaches aiming to evaluate mechanisms of resilience across disease stages.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Amyloid; Cognitive reserve; Compensation; Glucose metabolism.
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