Dementia risk associated with childhood cognitive ability

November 13, 2019

A person’s cognitive ability is expected to change over the course of their life – new research suggests that cognitive ability during childhood may indicate future risks of dementia. Dementia is a form of cognitive decline that can impede a person’s ability to solve problems, remember, speak, and think.

This time, the researchers compared the results of 502 people who underwent cognitive testing at 8 and 70 years old, and studied various factors that might affect their cognitive performance during that time, such as education level and socioeconomic status.

As for the results, the participants with a high ability to think as a child achieved similarly high scores over 60 years later – those who performed in the top 25% as children, for example, were likely to hold their position in the top 25% at 70 years of age; those with a college degree were noted to score around 16% higher than those who had left school early; and women, overall,were noted to be better than men when it came to memory and thinking speed.

A high socioeconomic status also surprisingly did not have a significant impact on cognitive performance -professional and manual job holders were both observed to have close average scores on recall tests. Further, the researchers found that participants with beta-amyloid plaques in their brains – a telling sign of Alzheimer’s disease – scored an average of 8% lower on cognitive tests.

Study author Jonathan M. Schott, of UK’s University College London, explains that small differences in thinking/memory associated with amyloid plaques in the brain are detectable in older adults, even years before symptoms of dementia manifest.

While continued follow-up of these individuals is important, Scott adds, “If we can understand what influences an individual’s cognitive performance in later life, we can determine which aspects might be modifiable by education or lifestyle changes like exercise, diet, or sleep, which may slow the development of cognitive decline.”


Category: Features, Health alert

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