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cognitive reserve;crystallized intelligence;educational attainment;mental workplace demands;neuropsychological;older adults


Renee Biss



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Background: For decades, a key question that has been posed by the cognitive aging literature is how do we preserve our cognitive abilities throughout the lifespan? This thesis examined the influence of cognitive reserve (CR) on different domains of cognitive functioning in a sample of older adults with varying levels of cognitive functioning, ranging from normal cognitive aging to mild cognitive impairment. To date, little research has used latent variable modelling to examine the potential relationships between cognitive reserve and cognition in older adults without dementia. Objectives: To examine the (1) cumulative and (2) independent effects of three well-established proxies of CR—educational attainment, mental workplace demands, crystallized intelligence—on performance across several neuropsychological tests assessing verbal and visual memory, executive functioning, visuospatial processing, language, and global cognitive status. Method: The current study utilized archival data from 232 older adult patients seen at geriatric specialist hospital in Ontario, Canada. To evaluate hypothesized relationships between CR and late-life cognition, two structural equation models were constructed. Subsequent relative weight and multiple regression analyses were performed to examine the individual relationships between CR proxies and late-life cognition. Results: As predicted, CR was associated with better performance on a cognitive screener, however, both hypothesized models demonstrated poor fit. Overall, CR was most important in predicting older adults’ higher-order cognitive abilities and crystallized intelligence was the only CR proxy that was a significant predictor of late-life cognition, beyond sociodemographic factors. Significance: Findings from this study add to our current understanding of CR by demonstrating that in older age, certain areas of cognitive functioning may be more influenced by CR over others and that dynamic proxies of CR, such as crystallized intelligence may better capture the relationship between CR and late-life cognition.