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Neurology. 2000 Nov 28;55(10):1455-9.

Childhood mental ability and dementia.

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  • 1Aberdeen University, Department of Mental Health, Scotland.



To examine links between childhood mental ability and dementia using data from a 1932 survey of the mental ability of the 1921 Scottish birth cohort.


Patients with dementia from the 1921 Scottish birth cohort were located in 1) a national survey of early-onset dementia (1974-1988), 2) local mental health services, and 3) a survey of 264 of 519 surviving Aberdeen residents who took the 1932 test. Control subjects were identified in the 1932 Scottish Mental Survey.


Mean 1932 ability score for the Scottish 1921 cohort did not differ from early-onset dementia. Early-onset dementia was not associated with lower childhood mental ability when compared with matched control subjects. In Aberdeen, mental ability scores were significantly lower in children who eventually developed late-onset dementia when compared with other Aberdeen children tested in 1932. This difference was also detected between cases and tested subjects (controls) alive in 1994.


Late-onset dementia is associated with lower mental ability scores in childhood. Early-onset dementia mental ability scores did not differ from locally matched control subjects or from late-onset dementia. Mechanisms that account for the link between lower mental ability and late-onset dementia are probably not relevant to early-onset dementia.

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