Differences between Chronological and Brain Age Are Related to Education and Self-Reported Physical Activity

Steffener, Jason; Habeck, Christian G.; O'Shea, Deirdre; Razlighi, Qolamreza R.; Bherer, Louis; Stern, Yaakov

This study investigated the relationship between education and physical activity and the difference between a physiological prediction of age and chronological age (CA). Cortical and subcortical gray matter regional volumes were calculated from 331 healthy adults (range: 19-79 years). Multivariate analyses identified a covariance pattern of brain volumes best predicting CA (R(2) = 47%). Individual expression of this brain pattern served as a physiologic measure of brain age (BA). The difference between CA and BA was predicted by education and self-report measures of physical activity. Education and the daily number of flights of stairs climbed (FOSC) were the only 2 significant predictors of decreased BA. Effect sizes demonstrated that BA decreased by 0.95 years for each year of education and by 0.58 years for 1 additional FOSC daily. Effects of education and FOSC on regional brain volume were largely driven by temporal and subcortical volumes. These results demonstrate that higher levels of education and daily FOSC are related to larger brain volume than predicted by CA which supports the utility of regional gray matter volume as a biomarker of healthy brain aging.


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February 23, 2018