Cognitive reserve and the neurobiology of cognitive aging

L J Whalley, I J Deary, C L Appleton, John Starr

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract

A hypothetical construct of "cognitive reserve" is widely used to explain how, in the face of neurodegenerative changes that are similar in nature and extent, individuals vary considerably in the severity of cognitive aging and clinical dementia. Intelligence, education and occupational level are believed to be major active components of cognitive reserve. Here, we summarize the main features of cognitive aging and their neuropathological correlates. We describe the neurobiology of cognitive aging and conclude that perturbations of neural health attributable to oxidative stress and inflammatory processes alone are insufficient to distinguish cognitive aging from Alzheimer's disease. We introduce the concept of cognitive reserve and illustrate its utility in explaining individual differences in cognitive aging. Structural and functional brain imaging studies suggest plausible neural substrates of cognitive reserve, probably involving processes that support neuroplasticity in the aging brain. The cognitive reserve hypothesis conforms with reported associations between early and mid life lifestyle choices, early education, lifelong dietary habit, leisure pursuits and the retention of late life mental ability. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-382
Number of pages14
JournalAgeing Research Reviews
Volume3
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004

Keywords

  • cognitive aging
  • dementia
  • cognitive reserve
  • education
  • occupation
  • neuroplasticity
  • NATIONAL BIRTH COHORT
  • NEURAL STEM-CELLS
  • ALZHEIMERS-DISEASE
  • NEURODEGENERATIVE DISORDERS
  • NEUROFIBRILLARY TANGLES
  • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
  • ENTORHINAL CORTEX
  • PHYSICAL-ACTIVITY
  • CEREBRAL-CORTEX
  • MENTAL-ABILITY

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