People who go on to study after leaving school have a better chance of coping with the physical effects of dementia, research has shown.
Scientists have said that those who enrol at university or college seem to be less affected by dementia-related brain changes than people who opt out of further education.
However, research published in the journal Brain found their brains are just as susceptible to the neurological break down that gives rise to the disease.
The reason why people who spend time in further education are better able to cope with dementia-related brain damage is unclear.
Over the past decade, research has consistently shown that the more time a person spends in education, the less he or she is likely to develop dementia symptoms.
For each additional year of education there is an estimated 11% reduced risk of developing dementia.
However, until now it has not been clear whether or not education had a physical protective effect on the brain.
Alzheimer’s is marked by deposits of beta-amyloid protein in the brain, and knotty protein structures in the nerves themselves called tau tangles.
Both are thought to contribute to the damage that results in the disease.
The new research involved examining the brains of 872 participants in EClipSE (Epidemiological Clinicopathalogical Studies in Europe), a collaboration between three large population-based studies of ageing.
Of the donors, 56% were suffering from dementia when they died, the scientists reported.