Higher education or larger brain size may protect against dementia later in life, new study finds

set of dementia by keeping their brains active," Dr. Mortimer said. It is not yet known when in the life course formal education needs to occur for this protection to exist, he added.

The research team assessed 294 Catholic sisters for whom data on head circumference were available every year for 10 years. The nuns were tested for their cognitive abilities and completion of daily living tasks, and 111 were diagnosed with dementia. Sixty participants died and their autopsied brains were evaluated to assess the severity of brain abnormalities associated with AD.

The Nun Study, begun in 1992, has followed 678 Catholic sisters, initially 75 to 102 years of age, who are evaluated yearly and who have agreed to brain donation at the time of death. Supported by the National Institute on Aging, it is one of the first large autopsy studies to include normal as well as demented participants. The Nun Study is directed by Dr. David Snowdon of the University of Kentucky. Dr. Snowdon and Dr. William Markesbery, Director of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, are co-authors of the current study.


Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
University of South Florida Health

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