Relationships Between Enriching Early-Life Experiences and Cognitive Function Later in Life Are Mediated by Educational Attainment

Timothy P. Morris, Meishan Ai, Laura Chaddock-Heyman, Edward Mcauley, Charles H. Hillman, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study of how engagement in enriching cognitive, physical, and social activities in childhood impacts cognitive function decades later will advance our understanding of how modifiable lifestyle activities promote cognition across the lifespan. Eighty-eight healthy older adults (aged 60–80 years) returned a retrospective questionnaire regarding their participation in seven lifestyle activities (musical instrument playing, language learning, sports participation, art/dance lessons, scouting, volunteering, family vacations) before age 13 years. After controlling for current age, educational attainment, socioeconomic status of the mother, and current engagement in lifestyle activities, a greater number of activities were significantly associated with better vocabulary abilities, episodic memory, and fluid intelligence. The relationships with vocabulary and fluid intelligence were mediated by educational attainment. We postulate that engagement in a higher number of enriching early-life activities is a reflection of both one’s sociocontextual environment and engagement with that environment. This engagement leads to attributes relevant for educational aspirations/attainment, ultimately contributing to factors that have a lifespan impact on cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-458
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cognitive Enhancement
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Executive function
  • Plasticity
  • Life-course and developmental change
  • Mediation analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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