Formal education reduces Alzheimer impact

August 12th, 2009 - 2:21 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 12 (IANS) Education reduces the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on cognition even if brain volume loss has already occurred, says a study carried out in Germany.
Robert Perneczky, department of psychiatry at Munich’s Klinikum rechts der Isar, explains: “We know that there is not always a close association between brain damage due to Alzheimer’s disease and the resulting symptoms of dementia.”

Dementia is the progressive deterioration in cognitive function - the ability to process thought (intelligence).

“In fact, there are individuals with severe brain pathology with almost no signs of dementia, whereas others with only minor brain lesions exhibit a considerable degree of clinical symptoms,” adds Perneczky.

Prior to the current study, brain damage was assessed after death using brain autopsy measures or using very sensitive functional imaging measures in live individuals.

“Our study is the first to show that formal education also modifies the association between brain damage and clinical symptoms of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease if brain damage is defined as volume loss on magnetic resonance imaging scans,” said Perneczky in a Klinikum release.

“The relevance of our findings is strengthened by the large sample including 270 patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, factors with a potential negative influence on cognition and brain volume loss, such as genetic characteristics, age, gender, and brain infarction were also considered,” he said.

These research results show for the first time that the modifying effect of formal education is robust enough to reduce the negative effects of structural brain damage on cognitive function.

The results are published in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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