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Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) may be a risk factor for later-life cognitive disorders such as dementia; however, few studies have investigated underlying mechanisms, such as cardiovascular health and depressive symptoms, in a health disparities framework.
418 community-dwelling adults (50% nonHispanic Black, 50% nonHispanic White) aged 55+ from the Michigan Cognitive Aging Project retrospectively reported on nine ACEs. Baseline global cognition was a z-score composite of five factor scores from a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Cardiovascular health was operationalized through systolic blood pressure. A mediation model controlling for sociodemographics, childhood health, and childhood socioeconomic status estimated indirect effects of ACEs on global cognition via depressive symptoms and blood pressure. Racial differences were probed via t-tests and stratified models.
A negative indirect effect of ACEs on cognition was observed through depressive symptoms [β = −.040, 95% CI (−.067, −.017)], but not blood pressure, for the whole sample. Black participants reported more ACEs (Cohen’s d = .21), reported more depressive symptoms (Cohen’s d = .35), higher blood pressure (Cohen’s d = .41), and lower cognitive scores (Cohen’s d = 1.35) compared to White participants. In stratified models, there was a negative indirect effect through depressive symptoms for Black participants [β = −.074, 95% CI (−.128, −.029)] but not for White participants.
These results highlight the need to consider racially patterned contextual factors across the life course. Such factors could exacerbate the negative impact of ACEs and related mental health consequences and contribute to racial disparities in cognitive aging.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been associated with worse cognitive health in older adulthood. This study aimed to extend findings on the specificity, persistence, and pathways of associations between two ACEs and cognition by using a comprehensive neuropsychological battery and a time-lagged mediation design.
Participants were 3304 older adults in the Health and Retirement Study Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol. Participants retrospectively reported whether they were exposed to parental substance abuse or experienced parental physical abuse before age 18. Factor scores derived from a battery of 13 neuropsychological tests indexed cognitive domains of episodic memory, executive functioning, processing speed, language, and visuospatial function. Structural equation models examined self-reported years of education and stroke as mediators, controlling for sociodemographics and childhood socioeconomic status.
Parental substance abuse in childhood was associated with worse later-life cognitive function across all domains, in part via pathways involving educational attainment and stroke. Parental physical abuse was associated with worse cognitive outcomes via stroke independent of education.
This national longitudinal study in the United States provides evidence for broad and persistent indirect associations between two ACEs and cognitive aging via differential pathways involving educational attainment and stroke. Future research should examine additional ACEs and mechanisms as well as moderators of these associations to better understand points of intervention.
Educational attainment is a well-documented predictor of later-life cognition, but less is known about upstream contextual factors. This study aimed to identify which early-life contextual factors uniquely predict later-life global cognition and whether educational attainment mediates these relationships.
Participants were drawn from the Michigan Cognitive Aging Project (N = 485; Mage = 63.51; SDage = 3.13; 50% non-Hispanic Black). Early-life exposures included U.S. region of elementary school (Midwest, South, Northeast), average parental education, household composition (number of adults (1, 2, 3+), number of children), school racial demographics (predominantly White, predominantly Black, diverse), self-reported educational quality, and school type (public/private). Later-life global cognition was operationalized with a factor score derived from a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Sequential mediation models controlling for sociodemographics estimated total, direct, and indirect effects of early-life contextual factors on cognition through educational attainment (years).
Higher educational quality, higher parental education, and attending a private school were each associated with better cognition; attending a predominantly Black or diverse school and reporting three or more adults in the household were associated with lower cognition. After accounting for educational attainment, associations remained for educational quality, school type, and reporting three or more adults in the household. Indirect effects through educational attainment were observed for school region, educational quality, school racial demographics, and parental education.
School factors appear to consistently predict later-life cognition more than household factors, highlighting the potential long-term benefits of school-level interventions for cognitive aging. Future research should consider additional mediators beyond educational attainment such as neighborhood resources and childhood adversity.
This study compared the level of education and tests from multiple cognitive domains as proxies for cognitive reserve.
The participants were educationally, ethnically, and cognitively diverse older adults enrolled in a longitudinal aging study. We examined independent and interactive effects of education, baseline cognitive scores, and MRI measures of cortical gray matter change on longitudinal cognitive change.
Baseline episodic memory was related to cognitive decline independent of brain and demographic variables and moderated (weakened) the impact of gray matter change. Education moderated (strengthened) the gray matter change effect. Non-memory cognitive measures did not incrementally explain cognitive decline or moderate gray matter change effects.
Episodic memory showed strong construct validity as a measure of cognitive reserve. Education effects on cognitive decline were dependent upon the rate of atrophy, indicating education effectively measures cognitive reserve only when atrophy rate is low. Results indicate that episodic memory has clinical utility as a predictor of future cognitive decline and better represents the neural basis of cognitive reserve than other cognitive abilities or static proxies like education.
Stress is a risk factor for numerous negative health outcomes, including cognitive impairment in late-life. The negative association between stress and cognition may be mediated by depressive symptoms, which separate studies have identified as both a consequence of perceived stress and a risk factor for cognitive decline. Pathways linking perceived stress, depressive symptoms, and cognition may be moderated by sociodemographics and psychosocial resources. The goal of this cross-sectional study was to identify modifying factors and enhance understanding of the mechanisms underlying the stress–cognition association in a racially and ethnically diverse sample of older adults.
A linear regression estimated the association between perceived stress and episodic memory in 578 older adults (Mage = 74.58) in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project. Subsequent models tested whether depressive symptoms mediated the stress–memory relationship and whether sociodemographics (gender, race, and ethnicity) or perceived control moderated these pathways.
Independent of sociodemographics and chronic diseases, greater perceived stress was associated with worse episodic memory. This relationship was mediated by more depressive symptoms. Higher perceived control buffered the association between stress and depressive symptoms. There was no significant moderation by gender, race, or ethnicity.
Depressive symptoms may play a role in the negative association between perceived stress and cognition among older adults; however, longitudinal analyses and studies using experimental designs are needed. Perceived control is a modifiable psychological resource that may offset the negative impact of stress.
Previous cross-sectional studies have documented associations between positive psychosocial factors, such as self-efficacy and emotional support, and late-life cognition. Further, the magnitudes of concurrent associations may differ across racial and ethnic groups that differ in Alzheimer’s disease risk. The goals of this longitudinal study were to characterize prospective associations between positive psychosocial factors and cognitive decline and explicitly test for differential impact across race and ethnicity.
578 older adults (42% non-Hispanic Black, 31% non-Hispanic White, and 28% Hispanic) in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project completed cognitive and psychosocial measures from the NIH Toolbox and standard neuropsychological tests over 2.4 years. Latent difference scores were used to model associations between positive psychosocial factors and cognitive decline controlling for baseline cognition, sociodemographics, depressive symptoms, physical health, and other positive psychosocial factors. Multiple-group modeling was used to test interactions between the positive psychosocial factors and race/ethnicity.
Higher NIH Toolbox Friendship scores predicted less episodic memory decline. One standard deviation increase in friendship corresponded to 6 fewer years of memory aging. This association did not significantly differ across racial/ethnic groups.
This longitudinal study provides support for the potential importance of friendships for subsequent episodic memory trajectories among older adults from three ethnic groups. Further study into culturally informed interventions is needed to investigate whether and how friend networks may be targeted to promote cognitive health in late life.
Social engagement may be an important protective resource for cognitive aging. Some evidence suggests that time spent with friends may be more beneficial for cognition than time spent with family. Because maintaining friendships has been demonstrated to require more active maintenance and engagement in shared activities, activity engagement may be one underlying pathway that explains the distinct associations between contact frequency with friends versus family and cognition.
Using two waves of data from the national survey of Midlife in the United States (n = 3707, Mage = 55.80, 51% female at baseline), we examined longitudinal associations between contact frequency with friends and family, activity engagement (cognitive and physical activities), and cognition (episodic memory and executive functioning) to determine whether activity engagement mediates the relationship between contact frequency and cognition.
The longitudinal mediation model revealed that more frequent contact with friends, but not family, was associated with greater concurrent engagement in physical and cognitive activities, which were both associated with better episodic memory and executive functioning.
These findings suggest that time spent with friends may promote both cognitively and physically stimulating activities that could help to preserve not only these social relationships but also cognitive functioning.
Objectives: Low educational attainment is a risk factor for more rapid cognitive aging, but there is substantial variability in cognitive trajectories within educational groups. The aim of this study was to determine the factors that confer resilience to memory decline within educational strata. Methods: We selected 2573 initially nondemented White, African American, and Hispanic participants from the longitudinal community-based Washington Heights/Inwood Columbia Aging Project who had at least two visits. We estimated initial memory (intercept) and the rate of memory decline (slope) using up to five occasions of measurement. We classified groups according to the educational attainment groups as low (≤5 years), medium (6–11 years), and high (≥12 years). We used a multiple-group latent growth model to identify the baseline predictors of initial memory performance and rate of memory decline across groups. The model specification considered the influence of demographic, socioeconomic, biomedical, and cognitive variables on the intercept and the slope of memory trajectory. Results: Our results indicated that the three educational groups do not benefit from the same factors. When allowed to differ across groups, the predictors were related to cognitive outcomes in the highly educated group, but we found no unique predictor of cognition for the low educated older adults. Conclusions: These findings highlight that memory-protective factors may differ across older adults with distinct educational backgrounds, and the need to evaluate a broader range of potential resilience factors for older adults with few years of school.
Objectives: Cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence from largely non-Hispanic White cohorts suggests that positive psychosocial factors, particularly self-efficacy and social support, may protect against late-life cognitive decline. Identifying potentially protective factors in racial/ethnic minority elders is of high importance due to their increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The overall goal of this study was to characterize cross-sectional associations between positive psychosocial factors and cognitive domains among Black, Hispanic, and White older adults. Methods: A total of 548 older adults (41% Black, 28% Hispanic, 31% White) in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project completed cognitive and psychosocial measures from the NIH Toolbox and standard neuropsychological tests. Multiple-group regressions were used to compare cross-sectional associations between positive psychosocial factors and cognition across racial/ethnic groups, independent of demographics, depressive symptoms, and physical health. Results: Positive associations between self-efficacy and language did not significantly differ across race/ethnicity, although the bivariate association between self-efficacy and language was not significant among Hispanics. Additional positive associations were observed for Whites and Blacks, but not Hispanics. Negative associations between emotional support and purpose in life and working memory were seen only in Hispanics. Conclusions: Results confirm and extend the link between self-efficacy and cognition in late life, particularly for White and Black older adults. Previous studies on positive psychosocial factors in cognitive aging may not be generalizable to Hispanics. Longitudinal follow-up is needed to determine whether negative relationships between certain psychosocial factors and cognition in Hispanics reflect reverse causation, threshold effects, and/or negative aspects of having a strong social network. (JINS, 2018, 24, 294–304)
Racially patterned disadvantage in Southern states, especially during the formative years of primary school, may contribute to enduring disparities in adult cognitive outcomes. Drawing on a lifecourse perspective, we examine whether state of school attendance affects cognitive outcomes in older adults and partially contributes to persistent racial disparities. Using data from older African American and white participants in the national Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the New York based Washington Heights Inwood Cognitive Aging Project (WHICAP), we estimated age-and gender-adjusted multilevel models with random effects for states predicting years of education and cognitive outcomes (e.g., memory and vocabulary). We summarized the proportion of variation in outcomes attributable to state of school attendance and compared the magnitude of racial disparities across states. Among WHICAP African Americans, state of school attendance accounted for 9% of the variance in years of schooling, 6% of memory, and 12% of language. Among HRS African Americans, state of school attendance accounted for 13% of the variance in years of schooling and also contributed to variance in cognitive function (7%), memory (2%), and vocabulary (12%). Random slope models indicated state-level African American and white disparities in every Census region, with the largest racial differences in the South. State of school attendance may contribute to racial disparities in cognitive outcomes among older Americans. Despite tremendous within-state heterogeneity, state of school attendance also accounted for some variability in cognitive outcomes. Racial disparities in older Americans may reflect historical patterns of segregation and differential access to resources such as education. (JINS, 2015, 21, 677–687)
Previous studies showed that control beliefs are more strongly related to global cognition and mortality among adults with low education, providing preliminary evidence that self-efficacy buffers against the negative impact of educational disadvantage on physical and cognitive health. The current study extends these findings to a nationally representative sample of men and women aged 30 to 85 and explores which cognitive domains are most strongly associated with self-efficacy, educational attainment, and their interaction. Data were obtained from 1032 adult (30–85) participants in the United States norming study for the NIH Toolbox. Self-efficacy, executive functioning, working memory, processing speed, episodic memory, and vocabulary were assessed with the NIH Toolbox. Multivariate analysis of covariance and follow-up regressions tested the hypothesis that self-efficacy would be more strongly related to cognitive performance among individuals with lower education, controlling for age, sex, race, ethnicity, education, reading level, testing language, and depressive symptoms. Higher education was associated with higher self-efficacy and better performance on all cognitive tests. Higher self-efficacy was associated with better set-switching and attention/inhibition. Significant self-efficacy by education interactions indicated that associations between self-efficacy and executive abilities were stronger for individuals with lower education. Specifically, individuals with low education but high self-efficacy performed similarly to individuals with high education. This study provides evidence that self-efficacy beliefs buffer against the negative effects of low educational attainment on executive functioning. These results have implications for future policy and/or intervention work aimed at reducing the deleterious effects of educational disadvantage on later cognitive health. (JINS, 2015, 21, 297–304)
It is essential to recognize and treat psychosis in Parkinson's disease for several reasons. Studies have shown that psychosis in Parkinson's disease patients is a strong risk factor for nursing home placement. Psychosis may be the greatest source of stress for caretakers of Parkinson's patients; it is often persistent, and its presence markedly increases mortality. Treatment of psychotic symptoms should occur only after potential medical and environmental causes of delirium have been eliminated or addressed. Initial pharmacologic changes should include limiting the patient's antiparkinsonian medications to those that are necessary to preserve motor function. Should that fail, an atypical antipsychotic is presently the treatment of choice. An emerging treatment option is acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. This article reviews what is currently known about the course, prognosis, and treatment strategies in Parkinson's disease psychosis.
We applaud Valian's (2014) thoughtful analysis of the cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that have thus far contributed to our knowledge about the role of bilingualism in cognitive aging. In evaluating the literature as summarized by Valian, we think it is useful to distinguish between the following four research questions and representative analytic approaches: (1) cross-sectional associations between bilingualism and executive function (e.g., regression), (2) longitudinal associations between bilingualism and change in executive function (e.g., growth curve modeling), (3) bilingualism as a predictor of dementia incidence (e.g., time-to-event analysis), and (4) bilingualism as a source of cognitive reserve (e.g., comparisons of brain pathology between bilinguals and monolinguals matched on cognitive performance).
Negative affect (e.g., depression) is associated with accelerated age-related cognitive decline and heightened dementia risk. Fewer studies examine positive psychosocial factors (e.g., emotional support, self-efficacy) in cognitive aging. Preliminary reports suggest that these variables predict slower cognitive decline independent of negative affect. No reports have examined these factors in a single model to determine which best relate to cognition. Data from 482 individuals 55 and older came from the normative sample for the NIH Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function. Negative and positive psychosocial factors, executive functioning, working memory, processing speed, and episodic memory were measured with the NIH Toolbox Emotion and Cognition modules. Confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling characterized independent relations between psychosocial factors and cognition. Psychosocial variables loaded onto negative and positive factors. Independent of education, negative affect and health status, greater emotional support was associated with better task-switching and processing speed. Greater self-efficacy was associated with better working memory. Negative affect was not independently associated with any cognitive variables. Findings support the conceptual distinctness of negative and positive psychosocial factors in older adults. Emotional support and self-efficacy may be more closely tied to cognition than other psychosocial variables. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–9)
The theory of cognitive reserve attempts to explain why some individuals are more resilient to age-related brain pathology. Efforts to explore reserve have been hindered by measurement difficulties. Reed et al. (2010) proposed quantifying reserve as residual variance in episodic memory performance that remains after accounting for demographic factors and brain pathology (whole brain, hippocampal, and white matter hyperintensity volumes). This residual variance represents the discrepancy between an individual's predicted and actual memory performance. The goals of the present study were to extend these methods to a larger, community-based sample and to investigate whether the residual reserve variable is explained by age, predicts longitudinal changes in language, and predicts dementia conversion independent of age. Results support this operational measure of reserve. The residual reserve variable was associated with higher reading ability, lower likelihood of meeting criteria for mild cognitive impairment, lower odds of dementia conversion independent of age, and less decline in language abilities over 3 years. Finally, the residual reserve variable moderated the negative impact of memory variance explained by brain pathology on language decline. This method has the potential to facilitate research on the mechanisms of cognitive reserve and the efficacy of interventions designed to impart reserve. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–9)
Although the relationship between education and cognitive status is well-known, evidence regarding whether education moderates the trajectory of cognitive change in late life is conflicting. Early studies suggested that higher levels of education attenuate cognitive decline. More recent studies using improved longitudinal methods have not found that education moderates decline. Fewer studies have explored whether education exerts different effects on longitudinal changes within different cognitive domains. In the present study, we analyzed data from 1014 participants in the Victoria Longitudinal Study to examine the effects of education on composite scores reflecting verbal processing speed, working memory, verbal fluency, and verbal episodic memory. Using linear growth models adjusted for age at enrollment (range, 54–95 years) and gender, we found that years of education (range, 6–20 years) was strongly related to cognitive level in all domains, particularly verbal fluency. However, education was not related to rates of change over time for any cognitive domain. Results were similar in individuals older or younger than 70 at baseline, and when education was dichotomized to reflect high or low attainment. In this large longitudinal cohort, education was related to cognitive performance but unrelated to cognitive decline, supporting the hypothesis of passive cognitive reserve with aging. (JINS, 2011, 17, 1039–1046)
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