Impact of the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial on cortical and hippocampal volumes

Michelle C. Carlson, Julie H. Kuo, Yi Fang Chuang, Vijay R. Varma, Greg Harris, Marilyn S. Albert, Kirk I. Erickson, Arthur F. Kramer, Jeanine M. Parisi, Qian Li Xue, Eriwn J. Tan, Elizabeth K. Tanner, Alden L. Gross, Teresa E. Seeman, Tara L. Gruenewald, Sylvia McGill, George W. Rebok, Linda P. Fried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Introduction There is a substantial interest in identifying interventions that can protect and buffer older adults from atrophy in the cortex and particularly, the hippocampus, a region important to memory. We report the 2-year effects of a randomized controlled trial of an intergenerational social health promotion program on older men's and women's brain volumes. Methods The Brain Health Study simultaneously enrolled, evaluated, and randomized 111 men and women (58 interventions; 53 controls) within the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial to evaluate the intervention impact on biomarkers of brain health at baseline and annual follow-ups during the 2-year trial exposure. Results Intention-to-treat analyses on cortical and hippocampal volumes for full and sex-stratified samples revealed program-specific increases in volumes that reached significance in men only (P's ≤.04). Although men in the control arm exhibited age-related declines for 2 years, men in the Experience Corps arm showed a 0.7% to 1.6% increase in brain volumes. Women also exhibited modest intervention-specific gains of 0.3% to 0.54% by the second year of exposure that contrasted with declines of about 1% among women in the control group. Discussion These findings showed that purposeful activity embedded within a social health promotion program halted and, in men, reversed declines in brain volume in regions vulnerable to dementia. Clinical Trial Registration: NCT0038.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1340-1348
Number of pages9
JournalAlzheimer's and Dementia
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • Brain aging
  • Cognitive activity
  • Cortical volume
  • Hippocampus
  • MRI
  • Neuroimaging
  • Physical activity
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Social activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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