Anatomic and neuropsychological findings in low-educated cognitively intact elderly from a Brazilian cohort
ABSTRACT In elderly individuals, low educational level may represent a risk factor for the development of dementia and a proxy of cognitive reserve. Objective: This study examined the cognitive and neuroanatomic correlates of high versus low educational levels in cognitively healthy community-dwelling older adults in Brazil. Methods: Fifty-three older adults (mean age: 68±5.3 years) were divided into a “low education” group [LE; 1-4 years of education (N=33)] and “high education” group [HE; >11 years of education (N=20)]. Both groups completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery and underwent in vivo structural MRI close to the time of testing. Results: Higher educational level increased the chance of having better scores on neuropsychological tests, including verbal and visual delayed recall of information, verbal learning, category fluency, global cognition, and vocabulary. Better scores on these tests were observed in the HE group relative to the LE group. Despite this, there were no group differences between MRI measures. Conclusion: Older adults with higher educational levels showed better scores on neuropsychological measures of cognition, highlighting the need for education-adjusted norms in developing countries. Given the absence of differences in structural anatomy between the groups, these findings appear to be best explained by theories of cognitive reserve.