Working memory, age and education: A lifespan fMRI study


Our brain changes in terms of mental functions and its structures as we age. In this study, we examined age-related differences in brain functions while accounting for changes seen in the brain structures in terms of neuronal density and volume. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), brain activity of 189 adults aged 22-80 years was recorded when they performed a task that involved holding spatial information in short-term memory in a 3 Tesla MRI scanner. It was found that increasing age was associated with poorer task performance, decreased activation in brain areas related to the task for spatial memory, and increased activation in brain areas not related to the task. However, after accounting for education level or task accuracy, the decreased brain activity with increasing age relationship was no longer evident. These findings suggest that education might help maintain some of our brain functioning as we age, and highlights the need for ageing studies to consider participant’s educational background.

Archer, J. A., Lee, A., Qiu, A., & Chen, S. H. A. (2018). Working memory, age and education: A lifespan fMRI study. PLoS ONE, 13, e0194878. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0194878
Annabel Chen
Annabel Chen
Professor of Psychology
Lab Director

Dr. SH Annabel Chen is a clinical neuropsychologist, and currently a Faculty member of Psychology at the School of Social Sciences.