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Cognitive Reserve in Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment: The Importance of Occupational Complexity as a Buffer of Declining Cognition in Older Adults

1 Department of Cognitive Neurology, Neuropsychology and Neuropsychiatry, Institute for Neurological Research (FLENI) National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), Montañeses 2325, C1428BUC, Buenos Aires, Argentina;
2 Institute of Neurosciences of Buenos Aires (INEBA) Buenos Aires, Argentina;
3 Institute of Cardiology Research “Prof. Dr. Alberto C. Taquini” (ININCA-UBA- CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina

Special Issues: Activity and Lifestyle factors in the elderly: Its relationship with Degenerative diseases and Depression

Cognitive reserve is the ability to optimize performance through differential recruitment of brain networks, which may reflect the use of alternative cognitive strategies. Work is one of the most important sources of cognitive stimulation during adulthood. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) represents an intermediate status between normal aging and dementia. As a consequence, this is considered a risk group regarding cognition. In order to study the probable association between occupational complexity and cognitive performance in a group of patients with MCI, a non-probabilistic intentional sample was dispensed on a group of 80 patients. Occupational complexity was explored by the Questionnaire on Agency of Labor Activity (CAAL, according to its acronym in Spanish) and a set of neuropsychological tests, which assessed cognitive performance in different areas: memory, attention, language and executive function, were administered. Results reveal that occupational complexity is associated to cognitive performance of elderly adults with MCI. With respect to working with Data, an increase in neuropsychological tests that demand high levels of attention and imply processing speed and working memory can be noted. Regarding the complexity of working with People, an association between the level of occupational complexity and an increase in verbal abilities and verbal reasoning can be seen. On the other hand, working with Things could be associated with better performance in specific areas of cognition such as visuospatial abilities. These results add up as empirical evidence to the fields of cognitive neurology and gerontology and to the cognitive reserve hypothesis, showing how complex environments can enhance cognition in old age. It adds evidence that help to understand which psychological, social and labor factors intervene in the cognitive reserve of an elder adult in cognitive risk.
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