Vol. 3 nº 1 - Jan/Feb/Mar de 2009
Original Article Páginas: 49 a 54

Age and educational level effects on the performance of normal elderly on category verbal fluency tasks

Authors Helenice Charchat Fichman1,2,3, Conceição Santos Fernandes2, Ricardo Nitrini3, Roberto Alves Lourenço2,5, Emylucy Martins de Paiva Paradela2, Maria Teresa Carthery-Goulart3, Paulo Caramelli4


keywords: aged, animal fluency, educational status.

Cognitive decline, particularly executive dysfunction, is observed in normal aging. In Brazil, the elderly population presents broad educational diversity. Category verbal fluency tests are frequently used to detect cognitive impairment, assessing executive function, language and semantic memory. Objective: To investigate the effects of age and education on category animal fluency task (CAF) in healthy elderly. Methods: We evaluated 319 healthy elderly from outpatient care units of two university reference centers of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The sample was divided into two age, and five schooling subgroups. To be included participants had to demonstrate preservation of global cognitive functioning, independence for activities of daily living and not fulfill diagnostic criteria for dementia. All participants were submitted to neurological and neuropsychological evaluations. Results: There was a correlation between age and CAF performance (r= -0.26, p<0.01), which was not confirmed when years of education were included as a covariant in univariate ANCOVA. Significant differences were found in CAF performance among the different educational level groups on correlation analysis (r=0.42, p<0.01) and ANCOVA analysis (F=18.8, p<0.05). Illiteracy was associated with worst CAF performance, while university level was associated with best performance. Conclusion: The best CAF performance was found in the first years of schooling (literacy learning process) compared to illiteracy, and when finishing high school and starting university courses compared to all other educational levels. These stages are associated with significant gains in semantic memory and executive function which are critical for verbal fluency performance.


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