Influence of young adult cognitive ability and additional education on later-life cognition.

Published on Feb 5, 2019in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America9.412
· DOI :10.1073/PNAS.1811537116
William S. Kremen70
Estimated H-index: 70
(UCSD: University of California, San Diego),
Asad Beck5
Estimated H-index: 5
(SDSU: San Diego State University)
+ 13 AuthorsCarol E. Franz48
Estimated H-index: 48
(UCSD: University of California, San Diego)
Sources
Abstract
How and when education improves cognitive capacity is an issue of profound societal importance. Education and later-life education-related factors, such as occupational complexity and engagement in cognitive-intellectual activities, are frequently considered indices of cognitive reserve, but whether their effects are truly causal remains unclear. In this study, after accounting for general cognitive ability (GCA) at an average age of 20 y, additional education, occupational complexity, or engagement in cognitive-intellectual activities accounted for little variance in late midlife cognitive functioning in men age 56–66 ( n = 1009). Age 20 GCA accounted for 40% of variance in the same measure in late midlife and approximately 10% of variance in each of seven cognitive domains. The other factors each accounted for n = 367). In our view, the most parsimonious explanation of our results, a meta-analysis of the impact of education, and epidemiologic studies of the Flynn effect is that intellectual capacity gains due to education plateau in late adolescence/early adulthood. Longitudinal studies with multiple cognitive assessments before completion of education would be needed to confirm this speculation. If cognitive gains reach an asymptote by early adulthood, then strengthening cognitive reserve and reducing later-life cognitive decline and dementia risk may really begin with improving educational quality and access in childhood and adolescence.
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