For years, experts assumed that people who studied more and kept their brains active had a lower risk of dementia. However, per the latest study, there is no direct link between an individual’s level of education and Alzheimer’s-related cognitive risk.
Researchers in the recent past have argued that people who have higher levels of education had a lower risk of suffering at the hands of Alzheimer’s disease, which is a common type of dementia and leads to memory loss. Studies suggest that a higher level of education boosted an individual’s cognitive capabilities, which denotes the brain’s ability to maintain as well as preserve the cognitive function in spite of any impairment.
However, according to the findings of new research conducted by Dr Rebecca Gottesman, from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, MD and her fellow colleagues, no link was found between an individual’s cognitive ability in middle ages and a lower risk of developing the Alzheimer’s disease. However, the study confirmed that “individuals with higher levels of education may remain cognitively functional for longer, purely thanks to the fact that their “reserve” takes longer to become depleted.”
The study found that people with higher levels of education secured higher cognitive function scores in comparison to their peers who had lower levels of education, irrespective of the total amount of beta-amyloid in the brain. Also, people with higher education levels had longer cognitive functioning and had no direct link with the chances or risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Dr Gottesman, “Our study was designed to look for trends, not prove cause and effect. The major implication of our study is that exposure to education and better cognitive performance when you’re younger can help preserve cognitive function for a while, even if it’s unlikely to change the course of the disease.”
The research team accessed data collected by the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, which included almost 16,000 participants who were healthy at baseline and became a part of ARIC in midlife between 1987 and 1989. The team accessed the health progress of participants for almost two decades until they aged 76 on average. Among the total respondents, 57 percent were women while 43 percent belonged to African American ethnicity. Researchers also investigated the effects of antihypertensive drugs, which helps in decreasing the risk of dementia.
For the current study, the researchers focused on just 331 participants without dementia at baseline. Out of these, 144 completed their high school or attained General Education Development (GED) diploma, 54 did not have high school education and 133 had attended some type of college or earned some type of continued formal education. MRI and PET scans for the participants were conducted to find out the levels of beta-amyloid in the brain.
The findings of the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and investigated the associations present between education and Alzheimer’s disease, rather than the cause and effect associations.