Premorbid reading activity and patterns of cognitive decline in Alzheimer disease

Wilson, RS, DA Bennett, DW Gilley, LA Beckett, LL Barnes and DA Evans

Arch. Neurol.. 2000. 57(12):1718-1723.

Background: Educational and occupational attainment have been associated with progression of Alzheimer disease in some studies. One hypothesis about this association is that education and occupation are markers for lifelong participation in cognitively stimulating activities like reading. Objective: To assess the relation of premorbid reading activity with patterns of cognitive decline in Alzheimer disease. Methods: During a 4-year period, 410 persons with Alzheimer disease had annual clinical evaluations, which included administration of 17 cognitive function tests from which global, verbal, and nonverbal summary measures were derived. At baseline, a knowledgeable informant was questioned about the affected person's reading frequency and access to reading materials before dementia onset. Results: A composite measure of premorbid reading activity was developed. It had moderately high interval consistency and was positively correlated with education and baseline level of cognitive function. In analyses that controlled for baseline cognitive function, education, and other demographic variables, higher level of premorbid reading activity was associated with more rapid decline on the global cognitive and verbal measures but not on the nonverbal measure. Conclusions: These results suggest that both the extent and nature of premorbid cognitive experiences may affect how Alzheimer disease pathology is clinically expressed.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; incidence; mortality; prevalence; prospective studies; risk factors; sex factors; women, Community Population; Japanese Population; Elderly Community; Senile Dementia; Older Persons; Prevalence; Age; Subtypes; Project; Predictors, Leisure Activities; Prose Recall; Education; Dementia; Reserve; Association; Occupation; Diagnosis; Risk; Work

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