College of Psychology Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award

1-1-2009

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)

Department

Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Charles Golden

Second Advisor

Edward R Simco

Third Advisor

Sarah Valley-Gray

Keywords

Aging, Cognitive functioning, Cognitive Reserve, Dementia, Education

Abstract

This research involves an examination of the relationship between education and age on a wide array of neuropsychological test measures among patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of education as an attenuating factor to neurocognitive decline in dementia. Although numerous studies have been published regarding the relationship between educational attainment and AD, few have included other subtypes of dementia in their investigation. To further expand the generalizability of previous findings, the sample in this study included both AD and VaD. While previous research has demonstrated a relationship between education and age-related neurocognitive decline in AD, most studies have utilized the MMSE or brief screening instrument to assess cognitive functioning. The present research included VaD and examined a variety of cognitive domains such as measures of global functioning, verbal intelligence, verbal memory, visual memory, attention/concentration, language, visuospatial skills, speed-of-processing, and abstract reasoning/executive functioning. Two standard multiple regression analyses were conducted, the first including age and education as the independent variables to assess the effects on one over and above that of the other. The second analysis included age, education, and their interaction term in order to determine if education attenuates age-related neurocognitive decline in the diagnostic groups. Raw neuropsychological test measure scores were included in all analyses as dependent measures. Results revealed that age minimally predicted performance in both groups, whereas education better predicted neurocognitive test performance in the AD group than in the VaD group. Furthermore, findings suggest that among individuals with AD, the rate of neurocognitive impairment in encoding verbal information and visuoconstructional ability is buffered by higher levels of education attainment. None of the interaction terms were significant for the VaD group. The current findings question the extent and generalizability of the presumed protective effects of higher education on age-related neurocognitive decline.

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