Early-life education may help bolster declarative memory in old age, especially for women

Jana Reifegerste, João Veríssimo, Michael D. Rugg, Mariel Y. Pullman, Laura Babcock, Dana A. Glei, Maxine Weinstein, Noreen Goldman, Michael T. Ullman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Although declarative memory declines with age, sex and education might moderate these weaknesses. We investigated effects of sex and education on nonverbal declarative (recognition) memory in 704 older adults (aged 58–98, 0–17 years of education). Items were drawings of real and made-up objects. Age negatively impacted declarative memory, though this age effect was moderated by sex and object-type: it was steeper for males than females, but only for real objects. Education was positively associated with memory, but also interacted with sex and object-type: education benefited women more than men (countering the age effects, especially for women), and remembering real more than made-up objects. The findings suggest that nonverbal memory in older adults is associated negatively with age but positively with education; both effects are modulated by sex, and by whether learning relates to preexisting or new information. The study suggests downstream benefits from education, especially for girls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-252
Number of pages35
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Aging
  • declarative memory
  • education
  • episodic memory
  • nonverbal memory
  • sex differences


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