Scientific American (July 27, 2010): More Education Delays Dementia Signs, But Not Damage

Publication Date: 
Tue, 07/27/2010

Education has been linked to dementia risk for dementia for decades, but researchers behind a new study opened up the brains of hundreds of people who had died with the disease to try to find out why this correlation exists.

The scientists found that the number of years a person had spent in school early in life did not change the amount of damage to the brain from dementia.

Most of the previous studies describing the link between education and for dementia were purely observational - a method in which "you can't really prove a cause and effect," says P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of biological psychiatry at Duke University and who was not involved in the new research. He also notes that many of the cognitive tests to diagnose dementia are biased against those who have lower levels of verbal and reasoning abilities due to less education to begin with.

"If low education is truly associted with dementia, then you would see a higher pathology in the brain," Doraiswamy says. And that is not what the researchers behind the new study found. The work is described in a paper published online July 26 in Brain.

The findings indicate that a person's education in early life does not have much impact on how much physical damage dementia seems to do to the brain.