Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden, have discovered that education delays early symptoms of dementia and slows development of the disease. This finding could result in faster diagnosis and treatment of dementia.

“This mechanism has previously been observed at a late stage of the disease, primarily in cases of Alzheimer’s, which is a type of dementia,” said Sindre Rolstad, psychologist and researcher at the Sahlgrenska's Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology.

People with mild cognitive impairment, and early stage of dementia, can experience reduced abilities to think, reduced memory and short attention spans. By analyzing the patients’ spinal fluid, the researchers were able to examine whether there were signs of dementia in the brain.

“Highly educated patients with mild cognitive impairment who went on to develop dementia over the next two years had more signs of disease in their spinal fluid than those with intermediate and low levels of education,” related Rolstad.

Despite having more disease in the brain, the highly educated patients showed the same symptoms of the disease as their less well educated counterparts. “This finding means that the highly educated not only tolerate more disease in the brain but also sustain less nerve damage during the early stages of the disease," explains Rolstad. The research can help professionals to better recognize dementia in highly educated patients and improve correct and prompt treatment.