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The influence of late-life university education on age-related cognitive decline and cognitive reserve : The Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project

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Thow, ME (2015) The influence of late-life university education on age-related cognitive decline and cognitive reserve : The Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Background: A strong link between education and cognitive performance suggests that a period of education in later-life could reduce age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) and risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The aim of this thesis was to examine the effect of late-life education on cognitive reserve (CR), cognitive functioning; and the potential influence of genetic factors on any relationship.
Method: A sample of 459 participants aged 50-79 years (M = 60.24, SD = 6.75) enrolled in the first four years of the THBP, provided salivary samples for genetic analysis and completed comprehensive annual cognitive assessments. Within this sample, an intervention group (n = 359) who undertook a minimum of 12 months part-time university level education were compared with a control reference group (n = 100).
Results: Growth Mixture Modelling (GMM) revealed that while 92.5% of the intervention group displayed an increase in CR, only 55.6% of the control group displayed an increase. Further, the intervention group displayed a significant increase in language processing capacity but no significant change in episodic memory, working memory or executive function. There was no influence of genetic factors (APOE ε4 or BDNF Val66Met) on cognitive function over time or on intervention response.
Conclusions: Attending university improved CR and triggered a commensurate improvement in crystallised cognitive function (language processing capacity) but not fluid cognitive functions (episodic memory, working memory or executive function). These results indicate that encouraging mental activity in later-life may be a viable means to reduce ARCD and potentially delay the onset of AD.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: age-related cognitive decline; cognitive reserve; aging; education; trajectory; neuropsychological; cognition;
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Copyright 2015 the author

Additional Information:

Chapter 2 appears to be the equivalent of the peer reviewed version of the following article: Lenehan, M. E., Summers, M. J., Saunders, N. L., Summers, J. J. and Vickers, J. C., 2015. Relationship between education and age-related cognitive decline: a review of recent research, Psychogeriatrics, 15(2), 154–162, which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyg.12083 This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

Chapter 2 appears to be the equivalent of a post-print version of an article published as: Lenehan, M. E., Summers, M. J., Saunders, N. L., Summers, J. J., Ward, D.D., Ritchie, K., Vickers, J. C., 2015. Sending your grandparents to university increases cognitive reserve: the Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project, Neuropsychology, 30(5), 525-531. This chapter may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.

Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2016 02:39
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2017 21:42
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