How Education Reduces Cognitive Decline
It has been known for some time now that higher levels of education are associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
This is thought to be the case due to increased levels of ‘cognitive stimulation’ (such as those that may be provided by higher levels of education) helping to maintain higher levels of cognitive functioning.
A new study recently published in the journal Brain and Behaviour aimed to examine the brain systems behind this phenomenon:
We examined the relationship between education, a commonly used proxy for cognitive reserve, and N-acetylaspartate (NAA) in neurologically healthy older adults (N = 135; mean age = 66 years).
Using single voxel MR spectroscopy, we predicted that higher levels of education would moderate an age-related decline in NAA in the frontal cortex.
The researchers were able to show that higher levels of education did in fact slow down cognitive decline:
We predicted that more years of education would offset age-related differences in frontal cortex NAA, consistent with the hypotheses of brain reserve.
The NAA (N-acetylaspartate) that the researchers were able to pinpoint is a nervous system metabolite that is known to be essential for normal brain operation, NAA is also known to decline in neurodegenerative diseases such asAlzheimer’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
The authors of the study concluded how the evidence showed that more years of eduction may be protective against brain dysfunction and impairment in later life, assuming that more years of eduction would lead to greater cognitive stimulation throughout lifespan.