Mental ability in childhood and cognitive aging

A. J. Gow, W. Johnson, A. Pattie, M. C. Whiteman, John Starr, I. J. Deary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Identifying the determinants of cognitive aging is a research priority; however, few studies are able to examine the influence of pre-morbid cognitive ability on later changes in cognitive function. Objective: To examine the association between childhood cognitive ability and cognitive change from age 79 to 83 in the presence of other demographic and lifestyle indicators. Methods: The participants took a test of mental ability when aged 11 as part of the Scottish Mental Survey 1932. Cognitive ability based on Raven's Matrices, Verbal Fluency, and Logical Memory was assessed at ages 79 and 83. We used both linear regression and latent variable growth curve modeling to compare methods and results. Results: Using linear regression, childhood mental ability was a significant predictor of cognitive change from 79 to 83, accounting for about 1.4\% of the variance. Sex, education, social class, smoking status and alcohol intake were non-significant. In contrast, using latent variable growth curve modeling, there was no association between childhood mental ability and cognitive change. Sex (male), years of education, drinking status (positive), and childhood IQ were associated with better cognitive ability at age 79. The difference in results was due to the inability of linear regression to account completely for test-specific variance. Conclusion: Within a group of non-demented older people, greater childhood mental ability was associated with level of cognitive ability at age 79, but not with change in cognitive ability to age 83. To obtain accurate results regarding covariates of change, it is important to use methodology that can appropriately allocate all measured sources of variance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-186
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • childhood mental ability
  • Cognitive aging
  • Cognitive function


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