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(Excerpts from American Academy of Neurology): How well eight-year-olds score on a test of thinking skills may be a predictor of how they will perform on tests of thinking and memory skills when they are 70 years old, according to a study published October 30, 2019 in Neurology. Education level and socioeconomic status were also predictors of thinking and memory performance.
The study involved 502 people all born during the same week in 1946 in Great Britain who took cognitive tests when they were eight years old. Between the ages of 69 and 71, participants took thinking and memory tests again.
One test, similar to a test they completed as children, involved looking at various arrangements of geometric shapes and identifying the missing piece from five options. Other tests evaluated skills like memory, attention, orientation and language. Participants had positron emission tomography (PET) scans to see if they had amyloid-beta plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They also had detailed brain magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI).
- Childhood thinking skills were associated with scores on the cognitive tests taken more than 60 years later. For example, someone whose cognitive performance was in the top 25 percent as a child, was likely to remain in the top 25 percent at age 70.
- Participants who completed a college degree scored around 16 percent higher than participants who left school before the age of 16.
- Having a higher socioeconomic status also predicted slightly better cognitive performance at age 70, but the effect was very small. For example, those who had worked in professional jobs tended to recall an average of 12 details from a short story, compared to 11 details for those who had worked in manual jobs.
- Women performed better than men in test of memory and thinking speed.
- Participants with amyloid-beta plaques had lower scores on cognitive testing. For example, on the missing pieces test, they scored 8 percent lower on average. In other words, they got 23 out of 32 items correct on average – 2 points lower than participants without amyloid-beta plaques.
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA