MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Vemuri: Lifetime intellectual enrichment might delay the onset of cognitive impairment and be used as a successful preventive intervention to reduce the impending dementia epidemic. We studied two non-overlapping components of lifetime intellectual enrichment: education/occupation-score and mid/late-life cognitive activity measure based on self-report questionnaires. Both were helpful in delaying the onset of cognitive impairment but the contribution of higher education/occupation was larger.
MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Vemuri: We found that an individual with low education/occupation benefited more by engaging in high mid/late-life cognitive activity than an individual with high education/occupation.
MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Vemuri: A significant protection against cognitive impairment can be gained from engagement in high mid/late-life cognitive activity irrespective of the subject’s life-long non-leisure activity through education and occupation. Mid/late-life cognitive activity was helpful in delaying the onset of cognitive impairment by at least 3 years irrespective of the number years of education. High mid/late-life engagement in cognitively stimulating activities (75th percentile) corresponded to engaging in several cognitively stimulating activities at least 3 times a week during mid/late-life. Examples of these activities include reading books and magazines, playing games and music, artistic activities, crafts, group activities, social activities, and computer activities.
MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Vemuri: Future reduction in the epidemic of dementia will come from public investments to increase access to education, better jobs and increasing the elderly engagement in cognitively stimulating activities.
Vemuri P, Lesnick TG, Przybelski SA, et al. Association of Lifetime Intellectual Enrichment With Cognitive Decline in the Older Population. JAMA Neurol. Published online June 23, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.963.