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Cognitive Reserve and Alzheimer’s Disease: Where Society and Biology Meet

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Why does education appear to protect against Alzheimer’s Disease? Why does the cognition-biology link break down in rich social networks? What it is about mental engagement that appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease?

These are all elements of what has been called ‘cognitive reserve’, a term coined by Yakov Stern. The magnitude of this cognition-pathology discrepancy is considerable, estimated by Valenzuela and Sachdev in their meta-analysis of education, occupation, IQ and mental activities components of brain reserve as a mean odds ratio of 0.54 for lowered risk of incident dementia over a median 7.1 year period.

In this talk I will outline a possible common biological pathway that may offer a possible explanation for these relationships, and will outline the significance of this for the prevention, treatment and management of what will be the overwhelming social and health problem in future decades. Valenzuela, M. J., & Sachdev, P. (2006). Brain reserve and dementia: a systematic review. Psychological Medicine, 36(04), 441-454.

Ian Robertson is Professor of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin and was founding Director of Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and a member of the Royal Irish Academy. He is director of the NIEL programme (Neuroenhancement for Inequalities in Elder Lives – He is a principal investigator on TRIL (Technology Research for Independent Living and on the TCIN -GSK Consortium on Neurodegeneration. Previously a senior scientist at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, where he was also a fellow at Hughes Hall, Ian Robertson continues to be a Visiting Professor at University College London, a Visiting Professor at University of Wales at Bangor and is a Visiting Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute, University of Toronto.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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