Control beliefs are associated with preserved memory function in the face of low hippocampal volume among diverse older adults

Growing evidence supports a link between locus of control and memory in older adults. Control beliefs may directly predict larger hippocampal volume (i.e., brain maintenance). Alternatively, control beliefs may be associated with smaller hippocampal volume at any given level of memory (i.e., cognitive reserve). Multivariable regression analyses examined associations between verbal episodic memory, locus of control and hippocampal volume among 236 non-demented older adults in the community-based Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project. Control beliefs were negatively associated with hippocampal volume when controlling for memory performance, indicating that individuals with stronger control beliefs were able to maintain memory function in the face of lower hippocampal volume. Subsequent exploratory models stratified by race/ethnicity indicated that this association was more prominent among racial/ethnic minorities (particularly Caribbean Hispanic older adults) than among non-Hispanic White older adults. Control beliefs were not associated with hippocampal volume before memory was taken into account. Results are consistent with the view that control beliefs facilitate the maintenance of memory function despite hippocampal volume loss. Results are not consistent with the view that locus of control contributes to brain maintenance. Culturally-appropriate interventions are needed to test whether strengthening control beliefs provides cognitive resistance to neuropathology.