Get access

Childhood socioeconomic status and adult brain size: Childhood socioeconomic status influences adult hippocampal size




To investigate in older adults without dementia the relationships between socioeconomic status (SES) in childhood and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-derived brain volume measures typical of brain aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD).


Using a cross-sectional and longitudinal observation approach, we invited volunteers without dementia, all born in 1936, and who were participants in the 1947 Scottish Mental Survey, for MR brain imaging; 249 of 320 (77%) agreed. We measured whole brain and hippocampal volumes and recorded childhood SES history, the number of years of education undertaken, and adult SES history. Mental ability at age 11 years was recorded in 1947 and was also available.


Analysis shows a significant association between childhood SES and hippocampal volume after adjusting for mental ability at age 11 years, adult SES, gender, and education.


A significant association between childhood SES and hippocampal volumes in late life is consistent with the established neurodevelopmental findings that early life conditions have an effect on structural brain development. This remains detectable more than 50 years later. ANN NEUROL 2012;

Get access to the full text of this article