Cognitive reserve and the prevention of dementia: The role of physical and cognitive activities

Sheung-Tak Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose of Review: The article discusses the two most significant modifiable risk factors for dementia, namely, physical inactivity and lack of stimulating cognitive activity, and their effects on developing cognitive reserve.

Recent Findings: Both of these leisure-time activities were associated with significant reductions in the risk of dementia in longitudinal studies. In addition, physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, is associated with less age-related gray and white matter loss and with less neurotoxic factors. On the other hand, cognitive training studies suggest that training for executive functions (e.g., working memory) improves prefrontal network efficiency, which provides support to brain functioning in the face of cognitive decline.

Summary: While physical activity preserves neuronal structural integrity and brain volume (hardware), cognitive activity strengthens the functioning and plasticity of neural circuits (software), thus supporting cognitive reserve in different ways. Future research should examine whether lifestyle interventions incorporating these two domains can reduce incident dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Article number85
JournalCurrent Psychiatry Reports
Early online date1 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


  • Dementia
  • Cognitive reserve
  • Physical activity
  • Cognitive activity

Cite this