(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, PhD, 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% 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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