Scientists from the UK and Finland have found an explanation for why people who stay in education for longer have a reduced risk of developing dementia.
The study looked at the brains of 872 people who had taken part in three large ageing studies.
From the questionnaires completed before their deaths, the researchers found that those who had had more education were "better able to cope with changes in the brain associated with dementia".
This conclusion went against previous speculation, which had suggested that higher socioeconomic status and healthier lifestyles associated with education were responsible for protecting the brain from dementia.
Co-author Dr Hannah Keage of the University of Cambridge, commented: "Previous research has shown that there is not a one-to-one relationship between being diagnosed with dementia during life and changes seen in the brain at death.
"Our study shows education in early life appears to enable some people to cope with a lot of changes in their brain before showing dementia symptoms."
The study reported that for each additional year spent in education there is an 11 per cent decrease in the risk of developing dementia.
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