Higher Education and Language Skills Could Help Prevent Dementia

There is not much research about the effect of education or other indicators of cognitive reserve on the rate of reversion from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to normal cognition. 

In a recently published study, researchers at the University of Waterloo found that people with mild cognitive impairment may not inevitably develop dementia and, in fact, having higher education and advanced language skills more than doubles their chances of returning to normal. The study findings appear in the journal Neurology. 

The findings contradict a common assumption that mild cognitive impairment is simply an early stage of dementia. The researchers also found that language skills, whether reflected in high grades in English in school or in strong writing that was grammatically complex and full of ideas, were also predictive. 

Study Development and Results 

The study included a total of 472 participants that were assessed with mild cognitive impairment during the study period. Of those 472, 143 (30.3%) experienced at least one reverse transition to normal cognition, and 120 of the 142 (83.9%) never developed dementia. The participants were followed-up for approximately 8 and a half years. 

Almost another third of the total number progressed to dementia without ever reverting to normal cognition, while three per cent stayed in the mild cognitive impairment stage, and 36 per cent died. None of the participants reverted from dementia to mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers also pointed out that reverse transitions were more common than progressing to dementia in younger participants who didn’t have genetic risk factors and had higher levels of education and language skills. 


Maryam Iraniparast, et al. Cognitive Reserve and Mild Cognitive Impairment: Predictors and Rates of Reversion to Intact Cognition vs Progression to Dementia. Neurology Feb 2022, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200051; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200051 

University of Waterloo Media Relations. (2022, Mar 3). Higher education and language skills may help ward off dementia. University of Waterloo Media Relations. Retrieved from: 


Image from:

Photo by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash