The term cognitive reserve has been used to identify higher levels of brain function or ability that is present. This ability may not always appear to be outwardly present and instead may be used to compensate for deficits or problems. In other words a person may appear average when they really have above average ability but that above average ability is being used for compensation. So they are not diagnosed as having a deficit because their performance is average when they really have higher ability and average performance represents their compensation and actually the presence of a problem. Put another way, cognitive reserve suggests that average scoring does actually reflect a problem given that higher cognitive abilities are employed to compensate for deficits areas. Research suggests that if someone has attained a higher level of education such as college study or a college degree this means that they have a higher intellectual ability. This also applies to the occupation one has and overall life achievement. So factors of education, occupation and life achievement have been shown to provide a neuroprotective mechanism for people (Neurology Today September 6,
2012). Studies have shown that tests reveal that some people despite having up to 25 percent of their brain showing plaques and tangles sufficient to meet the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease do not show outward signs of cognitive or intellectual decline when compared to other individuals who have the same test results (of plaques and tangles) who outwardly appear quite demented. The difference is that the first group of individuals has the protection of higher levels of cognitive reserve. This poses the question; how does education help the brain? Is it by stimulating dendritic branching (of the neurons establishing more brain connections) enabling the brain to sustain more atrophy before displaying deficits or are there more neurons to begin with and therefore a loss of neurons has less impact upon the brain?. Education is clearly being seen as a neuroprotection against memory loss and other symptoms based upon a study of 872 brains. This also begs the question as to whether higher education means more affluence, a better lifestyle, better health care and better access to things that stimulate the brain. Then there is the role of the presynaptic proteins. Recent research found that the action of the presynaptic process is a key issue. It is this process that releases and repackages brain neurotransmitters which is related to better cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia. In the same manner, more loss of neurons as a reliable marker of dementia was associated with lower levels of certain presynaptic proteins. The general idea is that there are more processes to investigate for medication intervention but also for cognitive or brain rehabilitation therapy.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?IT COULD MEAN
THAT THE USE OF COGNITIVE TRAINING OR BRAIN TRAINING MAY IN FACT BE RLEATED TO
BETTER COGNITIVE RESERVE AND OUTCOMES FOR DEMENTIA. THIS WOULD SUGGEST THE NEED
TO DO BRAIN TRAINING EARLY IN ONE’S LIFE IN THE 40’S AND 50’S AND TO REMAIN
Researches are beginning to look at the synapse (where the neurons talk to each other and exchange information) as a primary site for dementia as opposed to the amount of amyloid and amyloid burden.
The idea being that research is looking more at the overall functioning of the brain or brain functioning on a cellular level to understand dementia.