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What is cognitive reserve?

Do we have one?

Do we need one?

If so, how can we boost it?

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Everyone has some degree of cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve is the brain’s ability to compensate for aging, injury, and disease by improvising new ways to continue functioning.


This capacity is developed over a lifetime of curiosity, stimulation, experiences, challenges, and education (whether formal or otherwise).

Studies confirm that the greater our cognitive reserve, the greater our ability to stave off
brain degeneration. Cognitive reserve also helps us function better during stressful life events and in toxic environments. 


Cognitive fitness–the capacity to learn, recall, reason, and adapt our thinking–is something we can work on and maintain throughout our lives.


By eating right, exercising regularly, socializing, and challenging our brains and bodies in a variety of ways, we can help slow the progression of mental decline. 

1 “What is Cognitive Reserve?” Healthbeat, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from


2 A Guide to Cognitive Fitness. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from

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