Monday, February 7, 2022

Writing Skills May Improve Odds of Restoring Cognition Following Mild Cognitive Impairment

Population studies have shown that some people who develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can subsequently revert to normal cognitive levels. A study in Neurology has now found that women with strong writing skills might be more likely to experience cognitive improvements following MCI than women without these skills.

“Cognition is fluid, and cognitive states can improve or decline over time,” wrote Maryam Iraniparast, Ph.D., of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues. “[I]dentifying predictors associated with these transitions [are] important to inform the clinical prognosis of individuals with MCI and the design and interpretation of MCI clinical trials, and to develop public health strategies to prevent or delay dementia.”

Iraniparast and colleagues examined data from 619 participants in the Nun Study, a study that tracked the cognitive function of nuns (aged 75 years or older at enrollment) annually until their death or through the completion of 12 cognitive assessments. The researchers also evaluated autobiographies written by the participants decades earlier to assess their written language skills

Overall, 472 of the 619 participants developed MCI at some point during the follow-up period, which averaged 8.5 years. Of this group, 143 reverted at least once from MCI to normal cognition, 142 progressed to dementia, 16 remained in the MCI state at the end of follow-up period, and 171 died before any further cognitive changes were apparent. Most of the women who reverted from MCI to normal cognition subsequently developed MCI again, though 34 participants who reverted remained cognitively healthy for the rest of the study.

After adjusting for numerous factors, the researchers found that participants with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of educational attainment were more likely to revert from MCI to normal cognition than those with a high school degree or lower. In addition, participants who received As in high school English were nearly twice as likely to revert as those with lower grades. Participants who demonstrated complex writing skills (based on their autobiographies) were nearly six times as likely to revert as those with less complex writing skills.

“While our results show the importance of academic performance and written language skills as predictors of reversion, they also support the importance of education, a more widely available measure,” Iraniparast and colleagues wrote.

For related information, see the American Journal of Psychiatry article “Development and Validation of a Dementia Risk Prediction Model in the General Population: An Analysis of Three Longitudinal Studies.”

(Image: iStock/Eerik)

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