Midlife memory improvement predicts preservation of hippocampal volume in old age

Paul R. Borghesani, Kurt E. Weaver, Elizabeth H. Aylward, Anne L. Richards, Tara M. Madhyastha, Ali R. Kahn, Olivia Liang, Rachel L. Ellenbogen, M. Faisal Beg, K. Warner Schaie, Sherry L. Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines whether midlife change in episodic memory predicts hippocampal volume in old age. From the Seattle Longitudinal Study we retrospectively identified 84 healthy, cognitively normal individuals, age 52 to 87, whose episodic memory had reliably declined (n = 33), improved (n = 28) or remained stable (n = 23) over a 14-year period in midlife (age 43-63). Midlife memory improvement was associated with 13% larger hippocampal volume (p < 0.01) in old age (age 66-87), compared with old age individuals whose midlife episodic memory had either declined or remained stable during midlife. Midlife memory change did not predict total hippocampal volume for those currently in late middle age (age 52-65). The pattern of findings was not modified by gender, apolipoprotein ε4 status, education or current memory performance. Change in midlife memory scores over 14 years, but not any single assessment, predicted hippocampal volumes in old age, emphasizing the importance of longitudinal data in examining brain-cognition relationships. These findings suggest that improvement in memory in midlife is associated with sparing of hippocampal volume in later life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1148-1155
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Delayed recall
  • Hippocampus
  • Longitudinal
  • Memory
  • Midlife
  • Volumetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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