Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 304–317 | Cite as

Relationships between years of education, regional grey matter volumes, and working memory-related brain activity in healthy older adults

  • Benjamin Boller
  • Samira Mellah
  • Gabriel Ducharme-Laliberté
  • Sylvie Belleville
SI: Resilience/Reserve in AD


The aim of this study was to examine the relationships between educational attainment, regional grey matter volume, and functional working memory-related brain activation in older adults. The final sample included 32 healthy older adults with 8 to 22 years of education. Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure regional volume and functional MRI was used to measure activation associated with performing an n-back task. A positive correlation was found between years of education and cortical grey matter volume in the right medial and middle frontal gyri, in the middle and posterior cingulate gyri, and in the right inferior parietal lobule. The education by age interaction was significant for cortical grey matter volume in the left middle frontal gyrus and in the right medial cingulate gyrus. In this region, the volume loss related to age was larger in the low than high-education group. The education by age interaction was also significant for task-related activity in the left superior, middle and medial frontal gyri due to the fact that activation increased with age in those with higher education. No correlation was found between regions that are structurally related with education and those that are functionally related with education and age. The data suggest a protective effect of education on cortical volume. Furthermore, the brain regions involved in the working memory network are getting more activated with age in those with higher educational attainment.


Educational attainment Working memory N-back task Functional magnetic resonance imaging Voxel-based morphometry Aging 



This work was supported by a grant to S.B. from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). B.B. was supported by postdoctoral fellowships from the Fondation Institut de Gériatrie de Montréal and the Fondation Lemaire. Authors would like to thank Bianca Bier, Chloé de Boysson, and Emilie Lepage for their help in testing participants.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Boller
    • 1
    • 2
  • Samira Mellah
    • 1
  • Gabriel Ducharme-Laliberté
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sylvie Belleville
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Psychology Department, Université de MontréalMontréalCanada

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