Socioeconomic status is positively correlated with frontal white matter integrity in aging

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Socioeconomic status (SES) is an important reserve variable which has been shown to benefit the aging brain's macrostructure. However, it remains unknown whether SES affects age-related changes in the brain's white matter (WM) microstructure. Here, we used diffusion tensor imaging to explore the relationship between SES and three components of the diffusion tensor [fractional anisotropy (FA), axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity (DR)]. Participants were 40 (16 male) cognitively normal young adults (mean age=33.3 years, SD=4.27) and 44 (19 male) cognitively normal community dwelling seniors (mean age=66.2 years, SD= 7.5). Age-related FA declines were observed across a large portion of the WM skeleton. However, seniors with high SES showed lower age-related WM integrity declines in three frontal tracts: The right anterior corona radiata and bilateral portions of WM underlying the superior frontal gyri (SFG-WM). Positive SES-FA correlations were primarily driven by negative DR-SES correlations, suggesting that SES may buffer age-related declines in myelin. The functional significance of high SES in these frontal tracts was demonstrated through positive correlations with working memory performance. Possible mechanisms through which SES may attenuate the effects of age on frontal WM integrity are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2045-2056
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This study was supported by NIH grant AG033036 and NSF grant BCS 0814302. We thank Sara E. Cilles for her assistance in recruiting, scanning, and testing participants. In addition, we gratefully acknowledge our collaborators at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky.


  • Aging
  • Brain imaging
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Reserve
  • Socioeconomic status
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Socioeconomic status is positively correlated with frontal white matter integrity in aging'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this