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Neurology. 2010 Sep 14;75(11):990-6. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f25b5e. Epub 2010 Sep 1.

Cognitive activity and the cognitive morbidity of Alzheimer disease.

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Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.



To test the hypothesis that frequent cognitive activity predicts slower cognitive decline before dementia onset in Alzheimer disease (AD) and faster decline thereafter.


As part of a longitudinal cohort study, older residents of a geographically defined population were assessed at 3-year intervals with brief cognitive performance tests from which a composite measure of global cognition was derived. After each wave of testing, a subset was sampled for clinical evaluation. The present analyses are based on 1,157 participants. They were free of dementia at study enrollment at which time they rated frequency of participation in common cognitively stimulating activities from which a previously validated summary measure was derived. They were sampled for clinical evaluation a mean of 5.6 years after enrollment and subsequently followed a mean of 5.7 years with brief cognitive performance testing at 3-year intervals.


On clinical evaluation, 614 people had no cognitive impairment, 395 had mild cognitive impairment, and 148 had AD. During follow-up, the annual rate of global cognitive decline in persons without cognitive impairment was reduced by 52% (estimate = 0.029, SE = 0.010, p = 0.003) for each additional point on the cognitive activity scale. In the mild cognitive impairment group, cognitive decline rate was unrelated to cognitive activity (estimate = -0.019, SE = 0.018, p = 0.300). In AD, the mean rate of decline per year increased by 42% (estimate = 0.075, SE = 0.021, p < 0.001) for each point on the cognitive activity scale.


Mentally stimulating activity in old age appears to compress the cognitive morbidity associated with AD by slowing cognitive decline before dementia onset and hastening it thereafter.

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