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Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry

Print version ISSN 1516-4446On-line version ISSN 1809-452X


BERTOLA, Laiss; AVILA, Rafaela T.; BICALHO, Maria Aparecida C.  and  MALLOY-DINIZ, Leandro F.. Semantic memory, but not education or intelligence, moderates cognitive aging: a cross-sectional study. Braz. J. Psychiatry [online]. 2019, vol.41, n.6, pp.535-539.  Epub Apr 15, 2019. ISSN 1516-4446.


Aging studies regularly assume that years of education are a protective factor for baseline cognition. In developing countries with specific sociocultural issues, this relationship may not work as expected, and an unmet need remains for alternative resilience factors. This study aimed to analyze different moderators for the relationship between aging and general cognition that could reflect better protective factors.


One hundred and fourteen Brazilian older adults, deemed healthy by global cognition, absence of psychiatric symptoms, or neurological history, participated in this cross-sectional study. Moderators for the relationship between age and global cognition included education, intelligence, and occupational factors. Semantic memory was added as a protective factor reflecting culturally acquired conceptual knowledge.


As expected, age alone is a predictor of global cognitive scores; surprisingly, however, education, intelligence, and occupation were not moderators of the association. Semantic memory was a significant moderator (p = 0.007), indicating that knowledge acquired during life may be a protective factor.


In developing countries, the use of resilience factors based only on years of education may be misleading. Sociocultural issues influence the educational system and achievement and, consequently, affect the use of this simple measure. Resilience-factor studies should consider using crystallized abilities when studying populations with sociocultural particularities.

Keywords : Semantics; protective factors; cognitive aging; educational status; developing countries; aging.

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