BACKGROUND: Persons destined to develop dementia experience an accelerated rate of decline in cognitive ability, particularly in memory. Early life education and participation in cognitively stimulating leisure activities later in life are 2 factors thought to reflect cognitive reserve, which may delay the onset of the memory decline in the preclinical stages of dementia. METHODS: We followed 488 initially cognitively intact community residing individuals with epidemiologic, clinical, and cognitive assessments every 12 to 18 months in the Bronx Aging Study. We assessed the influence of self-reported participation in cognitively stimulating leisure activities on the onset of accelerated memory decline as measured by the Buschke Selective Reminding Test in 101 individuals who developed incident dementia using a change point model. RESULTS: Each additional self-reported day of cognitive activity at baseline delayed the onset of accelerated memory decline by 0.18 years. Higher baseline levels of cognitive activity were associated with more rapid memory decline after that onset. Inclusion of education did not significantly add to the fit of the model beyond the effect of cognitive activities. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings show that late life cognitive activities influence cognitive reserve independently of education. The effect of early life education on cognitive reserve may be mediated by cognitive activity later in life. Alternatively, early life education may be a determinant of cognitive reserve, and individuals with more education may choose to participate in cognitive activities without influencing reserve. Future studies should examine the efficacy of increasing participation in cognitive activities to prevent or delay dementia.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology