Superior language skills when young may help ward off memory loss from Alzheimer's in later life, according to a study of Roman Catholic nuns in the USA.
It reports that the women underwent regular tests of memory and mental skills from the time they entered their convent in their late teens or early 20s until their deaths.
Essays written by 14 of them in their early days show that those who could express large numbers of complex ideas using language suffered significantly fewer memory problems towards the end of their lives.
But while language scores were 20% higher for nuns whose memories remained intact, use of grammar, and whether or not the women had clinical symptoms of Alzheimer's, made no difference.
The Nun Study is is funded by the National Institute on Aging. Participants are 678 American members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame who are 75 to 106 years of age.