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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2012, Article ID 416132, 9 pages
Research Article

The Role of Education and Intellectual Activity on Cognition

1Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
2Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
3Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
4Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA
5David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
6Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
7Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

Received 2 April 2012; Revised 14 June 2012; Accepted 24 June 2012

Academic Editor: Denis Gerstorf

Copyright © 2012 Jeanine M. Parisi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although educational attainment has been consistently related to cognition in adulthood, the mechanisms are still unclear. Early education, and other social learning experiences, may provide the skills, knowledge, and interest to pursue intellectual challenges across the life course. Therefore, cognition in adulthood might reflect continued engagement with cognitively complex environments. Using baseline data from the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial, multiple mediation models were applied to examine the combined and unique contributions of intellectual, social, physical, creative, and passive lifestyle activities on the relationship between education and cognition. Separate models were tested for each cognitive outcome (i.e., reading ability, processing speed, memory). With the exception of memory tasks, findings suggest that education-cognition relations are partially explained by frequent participation in intellectual activities. The association between education and cognition was not completely eliminated, however, suggesting that other factors may drive these associations.