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Neurology. 2012 Apr 10;78(15):1123-9. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31824f8c03. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Influence of late-life cognitive activity on cognitive health.

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Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL, USA.



To test the hypothesis that late-life participation in mentally stimulating activities affects subsequent cognitive health.


Analyses are based on 1,076 older persons without dementia at study onset participating in a longitudinal cohort study. They completed annual clinical evaluations for a mean of 4.9 years. Each evaluation included administration of a self-report scale about participation in mentally stimulating activities and a battery of cognitive performance tests. Previously established measures of cognitively stimulating activity and cognitive function were derived. We assessed the temporal sequence of activity changes in relation to functional changes in a series of cross-lagged panel models adjusted for age, sex, and education.


During the observation period, cognitive activity participation (estimate of mean annual change = -0.066, SE = 0.005, p < 0.001) and cognitive functioning (estimate = -0.077, SE = 0.005, p < 0.001) declined at rates that were moderately correlated (r = 0.44, p < 0.001). The level of cognitive activity in a given year predicted the level of global cognitive function in the following year, but the level of global cognition did not predict the subsequent level of cognitive activity participation. Cognitive activity showed the same pattern of unidirectional associations with measures of episodic and semantic memory, but its associations with working memory were bidirectional.


The results suggest that more frequent mental stimulation in old age leads to better cognitive functioning.

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