Education Does Not Impact Rate of Cognitive Decline

Baseline cognitive function, but not its rate of change, associated with education level

TUESDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Although there is a clear association between the level of education attained and cognitive function, there is no parallel link to cognitive decline, according to study findings published in the Feb. 3 issue of Neurology.

Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues evaluated the cognitive function of over 6,000 older individuals (mean baseline age of 72.2 years). Cognitive function was measured using four tests, which were administered at three-year intervals for up to 14 years. Cognitive decline was assayed by observing the rate of change of cognitive function over time.

Although a higher level of education was robustly associated with a higher baseline cognitive function level, there was no link with cognitive decline, as there was no association observed when the rate of change was considered, the researchers report. The investigators also found that the repeated administration of cognitive tests, which has previously been shown to improve performance, did not influence the impact of education on cognitive change.

The authors note that taken together with previous studies, these results "suggest that education affects risk of late life dementia primarily by virtue of its association with level of cognition and not by an association with rate of cognitive decline."

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