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Professor Sara Mondini

Dept of General Psychology, University of Padua, Italy




Cognitive reserve in Healthy ageing

The concept of “reserve” has been used to explain the difference between individuals in their capacity to cope with or compensate for pathology. Brain reserve refers to structural aspects of the brain, such as brain size and synapse count. Cognitive reserve is the ability to optimize and maximize performance through recruitment of brain networks, and/or compensation by alternative cognitive strategies. The aim of the present talk is first to describe an instrument for the measurement of the quantity of cognitive reserve accumulated by individuals throughout their lifespan. This questionnaire includes some demographic data and items grouped into three sections, education, working activity, and leisure time. It represents a single index to compare data and results from different studies. All investigations evaluating cognitive abilities could benefit from this measure in place of education only. What is crucial is to understand when and how a high cognitive reserve could be beneficial for healthy ageing. The Cognitive Reserve hypothesis, in general, assumes that the fuller the life a person has had in terms of intellect, abilities and experiences, the more that person will be able to cope with difficult cognitive tasks and social events in life.




Sara Mondini graduated in Psychology at the University of Padua (Italy) where she also obtained a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology. While studying for her Ph.D. she spent many months abroad at different research places: the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London; the Centre de recherche de l’Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal (University of Montreal, Canada); and McGill University in Montreal. The Ph.D. dissertation was prepared in collaboration with the Mental Lexicon group of Montreal. She was the recipient of a Bourse d’excellence from the Ministère de l’Éducation, Gouvernement du Québec (Canada) to do research activity at the Université de Montréal and of a grant from the University of Padua, Progetto di Ricerca per Giovani Ricercatori, [Research Project for Young Researchers]. From 2000 to 2003 she taught Introduction to Neuropsychology at the University of Trieste. Since 2004 she has had a permanent position as an Assistant professor and since 2007 as an Associate Professor of Psychobiology at the Department of General Psychology, University of Padua. She teaches Brain and Behaviour in a Bachelor’s degree course and Neuropsychological assessment and Clinical neuropsychology in Masters’ and the post-graduate courses of the same University. Her research topics focus on language processing in aphasia and on cognitive impairment in neurodegenerative diseases. She is the author of a number of studies on neuropsychology, which have been published on peer-reviewed international journals.