The protective effects of executive functions and episodic memory on gait speed decline in aging defined in the context of cognitive reserve

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Objectives To evaluate whether levels of cognitive reserve (CR), as measured using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)-III vocabulary test, moderated longitudinal associations between cognitive functions and decline in gait speed in a community-based cohort of older adults without dementia, specifically, whether the protective effect of executive function (EF) and episodic memory against decline in gait speed would be greater in individuals with higher CR. Design Longitudinal (median number of repeated annual gait speed measures, 3; maximum number of visits, 7). Setting General community. Participants Seven hundred thirty-one community-residing individuals aged 70 and older without dementia were followed longitudinally with cognitive and gait evaluations at baseline and at annual visits. Measurements Decline in gait speed (cm/s) served as the primary outcome. The Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test (FCSRT) was used to assess episodic memory. The Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) was used to assess attention and EF. The vocabulary test served as a marker for CR. Results Linear mixed effects model showed that gait speed declined over the follow-up period (P <.001). The significant three-way interactions of time by DSST by vocabulary (P =.01) and time by FCSRT by vocabulary (P =.02) revealed that levels of CR moderated the longitudinal associations between EF and episodic memory and gait speed decline. Conclusion The protective effects of EF and episodic memory against gait speed decline in aging are greater in individuals with higher CR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2093-2098
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012



  • cognitive reserve
  • episodic memory
  • executive functions
  • gait speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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