Epigenetic Age Acceleration and Chronological Age: Associations With Cognitive Performance in Daily Life

Daisy V. Zavala, Natalie Dzikowski, Shyamalika Gopalan, Karra D. Harrington, Giancarlo Pasquini, Jacqueline Mogle, Kerry Reid, Martin Sliwinski, Jennifer E. Graham-Engeland, Christopher G. Engeland, Kristin Bernard, Krishna Veeramah, Stacey B. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


DNA methylation-derived epigenetic clocks offer the opportunity to examine aspects of age acceleration (ie, the difference between an individual’s biological age and chronological age), which vary among individuals and may better account for age-related changes in cognitive function than chronological age. Leveraging existing ambulatory cognitive assessments in daily life from a genetically diverse sample of 142 adults in midlife, we examined associations between 5 measures of epigenetic age acceleration and performance on tasks of processing speed and working memory. Covarying for chronological age, we used multilevel models to examine associations of epigenetic age acceleration (Horvath 1, Horvath 2, Hannum, PhenoAge, and GrimAge clocks) with both average level and variability of cognitive performance. Positive age acceleration (ie, epigenetic age greater than chronological age) was associated with poorer mean processing speed (Horvath 1 and 2) and working memory (GrimAge). Higher chronological age was also associated with poorer mean processing speed and working memory performance. Further, positive age acceleration was generally associated with greater intraindividual variability in working memory and processing speed tasks, whereas being chronologically older was associated with less intraindividual variability. Although further work is needed, our results indicate age acceleration effects have comparable or greater size as those for chronological age differences, suggesting that epigenetic age acceleration may account for additional risk and interindividual variation in cognitive performance above chronological age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberglad242
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine

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