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How to prevent cognitive deterioration?

How to prevent cognitive deterioration?

January 25, 2022

As we already know, an optimal state of physical and mental health acts as a preventive factor against cognitive deterioration Experienced with age. When we refer to the type of factors that prevent deterioration, we often refer to a concept called "reserves." But ... what do we know about the cognitive reserve and the brain reserve? What is its influence in the face of deterioration?

In the following article we will talk about the types of reserves available to our brain and we will explain your contribution as preventive factor in the face of deterioration .

The brain reserve and cognitive reserve

The reserve capacity is one that allows the brain to cope with the changes due to normal aging or neuropathological processes delaying the onset of clinical symptoms.


According to Arenaza-Urquijo and Bartrés-Faz (2013) there are two interrelated theoretical models for the study of the reserve :

1. Brain reserve model

This type of reservation corresponds to passive model, which refers to the anatomical potential of the brain : brain size, number of neurons, synaptic density, etc. This type of reservation poses a static and invariable model, since it emphasizes genetic and anatomical factors.

2. Cognitive reserve model

It corresponds to active model or functional, referred to the individual ability to use cognitive processes or pre-existing or alternative neural networks (compensatory) to perform an optimal task. Because this reserve can be increased due to the influence of various environmental factors that we expose ourselves throughout life (they will be explained later), it could be said that this model, unlike the previous one, responds to a dynamic character


What is the influence of the reserve on aging?

Now that we already know both types of reservation, v to explain their contribution to the aging process or, whether it is normal or pathological.

Brain reserve

Brains that possess a high degree of such reserve they have a larger base substrate , which will allow them greater resistance to brain damage in the face of pathological phenomena or during aging, thus favoring a prolongation of the preclinical state in the processes of pre-dementia and dementia (Arenaza-Urquijo and Bartrés-Faz, 2013).

In terms of normative aging, higher reserve estimates will correspond to brains that are more structurally preserved.

Through neuroimaging techniques such as anatomical magnetic resonance, we can detect brain changes in people with high cognitive reserve can serve as indicators for a pathological disorder in old age before it has manifested clinically, as for example in Alzheimer's disease.


Cognitive reserve

The cognitive reserve make reference to the cognitive processing capacity . Such a reservation allows the use of neural networks in an effective way, trying to reduce the impact of the changes associated with aging and neuropathological processes (Arenaza-Urquijo and Bartrés-Faz, 2013). It could be said that the cognitive reserve potentiates interneuronal plasticity and connectivity.

Through various investigations it has been shown that a high cognitive reserve acts as a preventive factor in the face of deterioration and, in the case of dementias, it will generally delay the onset of symptoms, and consequently, the diagnosis. However, the underlying pathological progress will be the same regardless of its cognitive reserve, therefore, the symptoms will appear when the pathological process is more advanced and, consequently, the progression of the disease will be faster once the threshold of clinical and cerebral involvement has been overcome .

This is because a brain with high cognitive reserve will present more facility for the use of alternative neural networks When the networks normally used are damaged, however, this compensation will end when the neurodegenerative disease becomes more severe (Pousada and De la Fuente, 2006).

Regarding normative aging, the cognitive reserve supposes a better performance , a more functionally efficient brain, for this reason it is important to maintain activities that stimulate our cognitive functions throughout life. In various studies (Arenaza-Urquijo and Bartrés-Faz, 2013), high levels of mental activity have been linked to up to 50% less risk of developing dementia .

So it is essential to take cognitive training into account as an intervention to minimize the risk of suffering cognitive deterioration associated with age and / or dementia.Likewise, it has been shown that there are also other types of environmental factors that contribute as a protective factor against cognitive decline, such factors are: the state of physical and mental health, occupation, sleep hours, food, activities of leisure and the maintenance of social relations.

We can analyze this type of reservation through a functional magnetic resonance (RMf) or through Positron emission tomography (TEP)

Some conclusions

In conclusion, it has been shown that reserve capacity acts as a protective factor against the manifestation of brain changes underlying the aging process or the disease tolerating greater damage to their brains and minimizing, in turn, the impact of the disease on its clinical manifestations.

This fact is of great importance since, although the underlying process is the same, the patient will maintain a quality of life for a longer time. The reservation, therefore, it turns out to be one of the numerous factors that demonstrate the why of the interindividual variability as for the symptomatic manifestation before the same cerebral affectation.

Therefore, it is interesting to highlight the need to carry out future research focused on the exhaustive study of specific activities that contribute to increase the cognitive reserve and analyze its consequent interaction with biological factors.

Bibliographic references:

  • Arenaza-Urquijo, E.M., and Bartrés-Faz, D. (2013). Cognitive reserve. In Redolar-Ripoll, D. (Ed.), Cognitive Neuroscience (1st ed., Pp. 185-200). Madrid: Panamericana Medical Publishing House.
  • Pousada, M., and De la Fuente, J. (2006). Memory and attention. In Villar, F., and Triadó, C., Psicologia de la vejez (1ªed., Pp. 114-140). Madrid: Alianza Editorial, S.A.

Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward (January 2022).


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