The relation between brain activity during memory tasks and years of education in young and older adults

Neuropsychology. 2005 Mar;19(2):181-92. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.19.2.181.


Higher education is associated with less age-related decline in cognitive function, but the mechanism of this protective effect is unknown. The authors examined the effect of age on the relation between education and brain activity by correlating years of education with activity measured using functional MRI during memory tasks in young and older adults. In young adults, education was negatively correlated with frontal activity, whereas in older adults, education was positively correlated with frontal activity. Medial temporal activity was associated with more education in young adults but less education in older adults. This suggests that the frontal cortex is engaged by older adults, particularly by the highly educated, as an alternative network that may be engaged to aid cognitive function.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*