brains

Cognition can be defined as “the process by which knowledge and understanding is developed in the mind.” 1 It is also known that cognitive state is fluid and can either improve or decline over a lifetime. 2

Mild cognitive impairment can be described as “the stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia.” 3

A recent study was done to see what the effect of education could be on the rate of either reversion of mild cognitive impairment to normal cognition compared to the progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia.2

The study was conducted with elderly nuns (minimum age was 75), whom were fairly educated (85% had a college degree).

They saw that 75% of the nuns were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment at some point during the follow-up study period, a third of those individuals showed a reverse transition back to normal cognition, while another third progressed to dementia.2

While level of education possibly could be used as a ‘risk-factor’ predictor for the possibility of the development of dementia, the authors state that there are limitations to studies done on cognitive state transitions that need to be addressed:

  • The exact time of transitions between states is unknown
  • Assessments aren’t continuous; therefore unobserved transitions probably occur
  • Transitions may also reflect the normal variation over time or acute factors influencing cognition
  • Diagnosis criteria must be established early and remain constant throughout the study

While more work needs to be done to streamline studies on cognitive state transitions, this does lay some foundation to the idea that engaging in continuous learning activities is beneficial to both delay mild cognitive impairment and to help regress from mild cognitive impairment to normal cognition instead of progressing from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

References:

(1) ‘Cognition’ https://oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definitions/american_english/cognition Visited March 13 2022

(2) Iraniparast M; Shi Y; Wu Y; Zeng L; Maxwell CJ; Kryscio RJ; St. John PD; SantaCruz KS; and Tyas SL. (2022) ‘Cognitive Reserve and Mild Cognitive Impairment: Predictors and Rates of Reversion to Intact Cognition vs Progression to Dementia’ Neurology DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200051

(3) ‘Mild cognitive impairment’ https://mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mild-cognitive-impairment/symptoms-causes Visited: March 13 2022

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