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Brain and Mental Performance

Higher Education May Reduce Risk of Mental Decline

15 years, 7 months ago

877  0
Posted on Apr 09, 2003, 12 p.m. By Bill Freeman

Results of a recent French study suggest that people with higher levels of education are at lower risk of mental decline caused by brain lesions called white matter lesions. Dr Carole Dufouil and colleagues at INSERM in Paris used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for white matter lesions in the brains of 845 patients aged 64 to 76.

Results of a recent French study suggest that people with higher levels of education are at lower risk of mental decline caused by brain lesions called white matter lesions. Dr Carole Dufouil and colleagues at INSERM in Paris used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for white matter lesions in the brains of 845 patients aged 64 to 76. Severe white matter lesions were found in 17% of participants who scored badly in attention tests. Further investigation revealed that the presence of white matter lesions was strongly linked to poor mental performance among those who spent less than 11 years in education. However, "there was no significant association" between the severity of white matter lesions and performance in mental-functioning tests in people with higher levels of education. These findings back the theory that education gives people a "cognitive reserve" that helps to protect them from mental decline. Thus suggesting that the greater "cognitive reserve" a person has, the more extensive brain damage it takes to impair their mental performance.

SOURCE/REFERENCE: Neurology 2003;60:831-836.

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