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Dictionary-reading Combats Dementia

Update Date: Oct 21, 2014 03:20 PM EDT

Reading the dictionary can combat dementia, new research suggests.

Scientists said that some people are bound to experience the initial stages of dementia as they age. During this time, the brain's cognitive reserve is put to the test to make up for its impairment. After studying different factors that can help strengthen cognitive reserve, researchers found that having a higher level of vocabulary can protect older people from cognitive impairment.

"Cognitive reserve" is the brain's ability to compensate for the loss of its functions, and is calculated by measuring indicators believed to increase its capacity.  

Researchers in the latest study wanted to analyze how having a rich vocabulary influences cognitive reserve in older people.

The study involved 326 participants who were older than 50. Researchers noted that 222 of them were healthy, and 104 suffered mild cognitive impairment.

"We focused on level of vocabulary as it is considered an indicator of crystallized intelligence (the use of previously acquired intellectual skills). We aimed to deepen our understanding of its relation to cognitive reserve," co-researcher Cristina Lojo Seoane, from the USC, said in a news release.

The study measured participants' levels of vocabulary, years of education, the complexity of their jobs and reading habits.

"With a regression analysis we calculated the probability of impairment to the vocabulary levels of the participants," said Lojo Seoane. The findings show that people who scored lower on vocabulary tests were more likely to suffer mild cognitive impairment.  

"This led us to the conclusion that a higher level of vocabulary, as a measure of cognitive reserve, can protect against cognitive impairment," researcher concluded.

The findings were published in the journal Anales de Psicología.

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