age, education, and white matter in adolescence

Proposal details

Title: Relationship of age and education to white matter integrity in late adolescence
Research Area(s): Development and Aging
Background: Socioeconomic disparities are important predictors of cognitive development and academic achievement. However, because of methodological limitations, it is very difficult to examine how socioeconomic status (SES) influences cognitive skill across the lifespan, from childhood through adulthood. Typically, studies of SES in childhood measure the effects of parental factors, such as maternal education or family income, on child cognitive development. Parental SES is an important indicator of childhood family conditions, but is inherently a “distal” factor used to account for children’s experiences. In contrast, studies in adults more commonly focus on the association between an individual’s own educational or income attainment and cognitive performance. While this approach has the advantage of incorporating socioeconomic conditions that more proximally reflect the individual’s experience, studies of this sort most commonly measure concurrent cognitive skill in adulthood, thus limiting conclusions concerning how the attainment of socioeconomic position dynamically influences cognitive and neural development. Late adolescence provides a unique opportunity to study the effects of higher educational attainment, during a time when age-related cognitive and neural development is ongoing. In particular, this represents an important time for maturation of prefrontal cortical function and executive control, which are likely to be influenced by higher education. During late adolescence it is possible to tease apart age- and education-related effects on the development of these processes, in a way that would not be possible earlier in childhood (when age and educational attainment are nearly perfectly correlated) or later in adulthood (when cognitive performance is more likely to be stable or decline).
Aims: The aim of this study is to examine relationships among age, educational attainment, and executive functioning (measured with the stroop task) to determine which associations are age-dependent and age-independent.
Method: BRID data from individuals between ages 17 and 23 with DTI and cognition data available will be examined with correlational statistics.