Cognitive function and frontal lobe atrophy in normal elderly adults: Implications for dementia not as aging-related disorders and the reserve hypothesis

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We examined the relations between cognitive function and age and education in the normal elderly population. As per the community-based stroke, dementia, and bed confinement pre-vention in the town of Tajiri, neuropsychological assessments, including the Cognitive Ability Screening Instrument (CASI), were performed for 99 randomly selected normal elderly subjects. We assessed the frontal function (working memory, word fluency, Trail-Making Tests, CASI subitems of list-generating fluency, attention, and concentration/mental manipulation), language function (proverbs, CASI subitem language), non-language function (the digit symbol test of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R), CASI subitem visual construction), memory (Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale recall/recognition, story recall, CASI subitems short and long-term memory, the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test), and the global function (CASI subitems orientation and abstraction and judgment). We found that the only test affected by age was the digit symbol test of the WAIS-R. The effects of education were distributed among various tests. There was a significant correlation between age and the frontal lobe atrophy in the lower educated group. The present findings suggest that cognitive function is spared by the aging process itself and dementia should be considered as age-related, not aging-related disorders, and that education might have a protective effect on cognitive change, supporting the reserve hypothesis.

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