August 2, 2018 by Sanne Franzen
Last week I visited the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago. One of the hot topics this year was cognitive reserve. Traditionally, a lot of cognitive reserve research seems to focus on those people with high education levels, higher level occupations and those who frequently engage in stimulating activities, but less research seems to look at those at the lower end of the cognitive reserve spectrum. From the talks at AAIC, I learned that even having only four years of education is related to higher cognitive reserve (as compared to 0 years) and that, in terms of occupation, the risk of dementia was especially increased when there was prolonged (>20 years) exposure to jobs with low job demands. When studying low-educated people or immigrants, Mexican researcher Fransico Flores-Vazquez and I came to the conclusion that we should also look beyond traditional proxies of cognitive reserve.
Aside from going to interesting lectures about cognitive reserve, I was happy to visit the Professional Interest Area (PIA) day of the Alzheimer’s research community (ISTAART) for the first time. In an interesting meeting, the most pressing issues in our Diversity and Disparities PIA were discussed, such as the need for accessible diagnostic tools that can be used for research purposes in remote or lower income regions, as well as the need for tailored information material that can be used to recruit more minorities in research projects. I was impressed to see the work being done across the world, such as the development by the team of Bruno Kajiyama of a television series mimicking a Spanish Telenovela in which a family member develops dementia (read more about his project here).