Cognitive reserve is not associated with improved performance in all cognitive domains

Louise M. Lavrencic, Owen F. Churches, Hannah A.D. Keage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive reserve beneficially affects cognitive performance, even into advanced age. However, the benefits afforded by high cognitive reserve may not extend to all cognitive domains. This study investigated whether cognitive reserve differentially affects performance on cognitive tasks, in 521 cognitively healthy individuals aged 60 to 98 years (Mage = 68, SD = 6.22, 287 female); years of education was used to index cognitive reserve. Cognitive performance variables assessed attention, executive functions, verbal memory, motor performance, orientation, perception of emotion, processing speed, and working memory. Bootstrapped regression analyses revealed that cognitive reserve was associated with attention, executive functions, verbal and working memory, and orientation; and not significantly related to emotion perception, processing speed, or motor performance. Cognitive reserve appears to differentially affect individual cognitive domains, which extends current theory that purports benefits for all domains. This finding highlights the possibility of using tests not (or minimally) associated with cognitive reserve, to screen for cognitive impairment and dementia in late life; these tests will likely best track brain health, free of compensatory neural mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-485
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Neuropsychology:Adult
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 3 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • cognition
  • cognitive reserve
  • education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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