Intellectual Enrichment Again Proven to Delay
Cognitive Decline in Seniors
Latest study from Mayo Clinic published in JAMA
Neurology suggests even those with high risk gene can delay decline
23, 2014 - The evidence continues to mount that the way to protect
against the common cognitive decline seen in too many senior citizens is
to maintain a lifestyle of intellectual enrichment throughout life. A
new study from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging confirms it again in a
report appearing in today’s edition of JAMA Neurology, and add
that it may delay dementia as long as nine years, even in high risk
Previous research has linked intellectual
enrichment with possible protection against cognitive decline.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the
association of lifetime intellectual enrichment with baseline cognitive
performance and rate of cognitive decline in an older population without
dementia and to estimate the years of protection provided against
cognitive impairment by these factors.
The researchers found that higher scores that
gauged education (years of school completed) and occupation (based on
attributes, complexities of a job), as well as higher levels of
mid/late-life cognitive activity (e.g., reading books, participating in
social activities and doing computer activities at least three times per
week) were linked to better cognition in older patients.
They examined lifetime intellectual enrichment with
baseline performance and the rate of cognitive decline in older patients
without dementia and estimated the protection provided against cognitive
decline, according to author Prashanthi Vemuri, Ph.D., of the Mayo
Clinic and Foundation, Rochester, Minn.
They did prospective analysis of individuals
enrolled from October 1, 2004, and in 2008 and 2009 in the Mayo Clinic
Study of Aging, a longitudinal, population-based study of cognitive
aging in Olmsted County, Minnesota.
“We studied 1995 individuals without dementia (1718
cognitively normal individuals and 277 individuals with mild cognitive
impairment) who completed intellectual lifestyle enrichment measures at
baseline and underwent at least 1 follow-up visit,” writes Dr. Vemuri
The 1,995 seniors studies were ages 70 to 89 years
and did not have dementia (1,718 were cognitively normal and 277
individuals had mild cognitive impairment) in Olmsted County, Minnesota.
They analyzed education/occupation scores and mid/late-life cognitive
activity based on self-reports.
There results confirmed that better
education/occupation scores and mid/late-life cognitive activity were
associated with better cognitive performance.
Higher education/occupation scores were associated
with higher levels of cognition. Higher levels of mid/late-life
cognitive activity were also associated with higher levels of cognition,
but the slope of this association slightly increased over time. Lifetime
intellectual enrichment might delay the onset of cognitive impairment
and be used as a successful preventive intervention to reduce the
impending dementia epidemic.
The authors suggest high lifetime intellectual
enrichment may delay the onset of cognitive impairment by almost nine
years in carriers of the APOE4 genotype, a risk factor for Alzheimer
disease, compared with low lifetime intellectual enrichment.
Only baseline age, mid/late-life cognitive
activity, and APOE4 genotype were significantly associated with
longitudinal change in cognitive performance from baseline (P <
For APOE4 carriers with high lifetime
intellectual enrichment (75th percentile of education/occupation score
and midlife to late-life cognitive activity), the onset of cognitive
impairment was approximately 8.7 years later compared with low lifetime
intellectual enrichment (25th percentile of education/ occupation score
and mid/late-life cognitive activity).
“Lifetime intellectual enrichment might delay the
onset of cognitive impairment and be used as a successful preventive
intervention to reduce the impending dementia epidemic,” the authors
Funding for the study
came from the National Institutes of Health, theAlexander Family Alzheimer’s Disease ResearchProfessorship of the Mayo Foundation, and grantfrom the National Institutes ofHealth for the Opus Building.
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