The Relationship between Cognitive Reserve and Functional Ability is Mediated by Executive Functioning in Older Adults

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Clinical Neuropsychologist








ADLs; Aging; Cognitive reserve; Executive functioning; Functional ability; Older adults


© 2015 Taylor & Francis. It has been noted in the literature that cognitive reserve (CR) predicts future functional ability (FA), but the association between CR and current FA is rather limited. This investigation aimed to explicate this relationship, and hypothesized it would be mediated by executive functioning (EF). To best understand the relationship between CR and FA, we recruited and tested independent community-dwelling older adults (OAs). Bivariate correlations and hierarchical regressions were completed to determine the association between CR and FA. Both individual CR measures and a composite CR score were used. Mediation analyses were completed to examine our hypothesis that EF would mediate the CR and FA relationship. All measures of CR were positively related to and predictive of FA. Although the highest zero-order correlation across the independent CR proxies was between income and FA (r =.417), education accounted for the greatest amount of variance in FA, 8.3% after controlling for age and Mini-Mental State Examination performance. Furthermore, the CR composite had a higher correlation (r =.447) and accounted for more variance than any of the independent proxies. Complete mediation was found between a CR composite and FA via an internally consistent D-KEFS composite score (Cronbachs =.795). This suggests that as CR increases so does EF, which in turn improves FA. Thus, future investigations could determine the effect on FA in OAs by improving EF.

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