Childhood Intelligence Affects Vascular Dementia Risk

June 26, 2008

Adults with vascular dementia are more likely to have had lower cognitive ability scores in childhood than their counterparts without vascular dementia, although there is no association between lower childhood cognitive ability and risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to the results of a study published online June 25 in Neurology.

THURSDAY, June 26 (HealthDay News) -- Adults with vascular dementia are more likely to have had lower cognitive ability scores in childhood than their counterparts without vascular dementia, although there is no association between lower childhood cognitive ability and risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to the results of a study published online June 25 in Neurology.

Brian McGurn, and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, conducted a study of 183 patients with late-onset dementia who were born in 1921 and who participated in the 1932 Scottish Mental Survey. Of these, 173 were matched with controls according to date of birth, district of birth registration and gender, as well as a second set of controls matched by their father's occupation.

Subjects with vascular dementia had significantly lower premorbid cognitive ability compared with the second set of controls, the researchers found, but the difference in premorbid cognitive ability was insignificant for those with Alzheimer's disease versus the second set of controls.

"This association was independent of early childhood social status and the environmental factors captured here. The data support the hypothesis that lower premorbid cognitive ability acts as a risk factor for dementia, through pathways of vascular risk rather than more generic cognitive reserve," the authors write. "If premorbid cognitive ability was acting primarily as an index of cognitive reserve, a similar effect on Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia would have been expected."

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