Hippocampal volume varies with educational attainment across the life-span

Noble, Kimberly G.; Grieve, Stuart M.; Korgaonkar, Mayuresh S.; Engelhardt, Laura E.; Griffith, Erica Y.; Williams, Leanne M.; Brickman, Adam M.

Socioeconomic disparities—and particularly differences in educational attainment—are associated with remarkable differences in cognition and behavior across the life-span. Decreased educational attainment has been linked to increased exposure to life stressors, which in turn have been associated with structural differences in the hippocampus and the amygdala. However, the degree to which educational attainment is directly associated with anatomical differences in these structures remains unclear. Recent studies in children have found socioeconomic differences in regional brain volume in the hippocampus and amygdala across childhood and adolescence. Here we expand on this work, by investigating whether disparities in hippocampal and amygdala volume persist across the life-span. In a sample of 275 individuals from the BRAINnet Foundation database ranging in age from 17 to 87, we found that socioeconomic status (SES), as operationalized by years of educational attainment, moderates the effect of age on hippocampal volume. Specifically, hippocampal volume tended to markedly decrease with age among less educated individuals, whereas age-related reductions in hippocampal volume were less pronounced among more highly educated individuals. No such effects were found for amygdala volume. Possible mechanisms by which education may buffer age-related effects on hippocampal volume are discussed.



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Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

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August 19, 2013