Aging is traditionally associated with cognitive decline, attested by slower reaction times and poorer performance in various cognitive tasks, but also by an increase in intraindividual variability (IIV) in cognitive performance. Results concerning how lifestyle activities protect from cognitive decline are mixed in the literature and all focused on how it affects mean performance. However, IIV has been proven to be an index more sensitive to age differences, and very little is known about the relationships between lifestyle activities and change in IIV in aging. This longitudinal study explores the association between frequency of physical, social, intellectual, artistic, or cultural activities and age-related change in various cognitive abilities, considering both mean performance and IIV. Ninety-six participants, aged 64–93 years, underwent a battery of cognitive tasks at four measurements over a seven-year period, and filled out a lifestyle activity questionnaire. Linear multilevel models were used to analyze the associations between change in cognitive performance and five types of activities. Results showed that the practice of leisure activities was more strongly associated with IIV than with mean performance, both when considering overall level and change in performance. Relationships with IIV were dependent of the cognitive tasks considered and overall results showed protective effects of cultural, physical and intellectual activities on IIV. These results underline the need for considering IIV in the study of age-related cognitive change.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited