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Cognitive Activity Throughout Lifetime Slows Later Decline

WEDNESDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitive activity in early- and late-life correlates with slower late-life cognitive decline, irrespective of common neuropathologic conditions, according to a study published online July 3 in Neurology.

Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues had older adults rate late-life (current) and early-life participation in cognitively stimulating activities. Participants underwent annual cognitive function testing for a mean of 5.8 years, during which time 294 individuals died and underwent neuropathologic examination.

The researchers found that more frequent late-life cognitive activity and early-life cognitive activity were each significantly associated with slower cognitive decline in a model that adjusted for age at death, sex, education, gross and microscopic infarction, neocortical Lewy bodies, amyloid burden, and tangle density. Early-life and late-life cognitive activity together accounted for 14 percent of the residual variability in cognitive decline that was unrelated to neuropathologic burden. Cognitive activity in childhood and middle age, but not young adulthood, contributed to the early-life cognitive activity association.

"More frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline that is independent of common neuropathologic conditions, consistent with the cognitive reserve hypothesis," the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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