In 358 participants of the Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project, we quantified the cognitive consequences of engaging in varying loads of university-level education in later life, and investigated whether or not BDNF Val66Met affected outcomes. Assessment of neuropsychological, health, and psychosocial function was undertaken at baseline, 12-month, and 24-month follow-up. Education load was positively associated with change in language processing performance, but this effect did not reach statistical significance (P = 0.064). The BDNF Val66Met polymorphism significantly moderated the extent to which education load was associated with improved language processing (P = 0.026), with education load having a significant positive relationship with cognitive change in BDNF Met carriers but not in BDNF Val homozygotes. In older adults who carry BDNF Met, engaging in university-level education improves language processing performance in a load-dependent manner.

(1) D.D. Ward, M.J. Summers, M.J. Valenzuela, V.K. Srikanth, J.J. Summers, A.E. King, K. Ritchie, A.L. Robinson, J.C. Vickers J Prev Alz Dis 2020;1(7):37-42

Article D. Ward