A study using an advanced brain scanning technology supports the growing body of evidence that education levels and some form of intellectual activity decrease the impact of Alzheimer's disease. People with a greater 'cognitive reserve' suffer less damage from the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that are a leading marker of Alzheimer's disease, according to the study in the November issue of the Archives of Neurology.
It's hard to say whether people can do anything to increase their cognitive reserve, said Yaakov Stern, professor of clinical neuropsychology at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease at Columbia University and an originator of the cognitive reserve hypothesis. Stern has taken part in several studies similar to the one now being reported, measuring blood flow to various parts of the brain as an indicator of Alzheimer's pathology. Those studies also showed that people with greater cognitive reserve 'are walking around with more pathology than they exhibit,' he said.