More educated people lose memory faster after diagnosis of dementia

November 14th, 2007 - 2:43 am ICT by admin  
The study conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, followed study participants for an average of six years using annual cognitive tests.

Study participants ranged in formal education levels of less than three years of elementary school to individuals with postgraduate education.

The study found for each additional year of formal education, the rapid accelerated memory decline associated with oncoming dementia was delayed by approximately two and one half months. However, once that accelerated decline commenced, the people with more education saw their rate of cognitive decline accelerate 4 percent faster for each additional year of education. The latter portion of this finding corroborates previous research, which had shown that people with more education had more rapid memory loss after diagnosis of dementia.

“While higher levels of education delay the onset of dementia, once it begins, the accelerated memory loss is more rapid in people with more education,” said Charles B. Hall, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology and population health at Einstein.

“Our study showed that a person with 16 years of formal education would experience a rate of memory decline that is 50% faster than someone with just 4 years education.

“This rapid decline may be explained by how people with more education have a greater cognitive reserve, or the brain’s ability to maintain function in spite of damage. “So, while they’re often diagnosed with dementia at a later date - which we believe may be because of their ability to hide the symptoms - there’s still damage to their brain,” Dr Hall said.

Hall noted that this is the first study to confirm important predictions of the effects of cognitive reserve in people with pre-clinical dementia. He also said that the study is limited since the participants were born between 1894 and 1908 and their life experiences and education may not represent that of people entering the study age range today.

The study is published in the October 23rd issue of the medical journal Neurology. (ANI)

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