Defining Cognitive Reserve and Implications for Cognitive Aging

  • Corinne Pettigrew
  • Anja SoldanEmail author
Dementia (K Marder, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Dementia


Purpose of Review

The aim of this review is to summarize current conceptual models of cognitive reserve (CR) and related concepts and to discuss evidence for these concepts within the context of aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Recent Findings

Evidence to date supports the notion that higher levels of CR, as measured by proxy variables reflective of lifetime experiences, are associated with better cognitive performance, and with a reduced risk of incident mild cognitive impairment/dementia. However, the impact of CR on longitudinal cognitive trajectories is unclear and may be influenced by a number of factors. Although there is promising evidence that some proxy measures of CR may influence structural brain measures, more research is needed.


The protective effects of CR may provide an important mechanism for preserving cognitive function and cognitive well-being with age, in part because it can be enhanced throughout the lifespan. However, more research on the mechanisms by which CR is protective is needed.


Cognitive reserve Aging Alzheimer’s disease Biomarkers Cognition Review 



This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers U19-AG033655, P50-AG005146).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Anja Soldan and Corinne Pettigrew each declare no potential conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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