Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 219, Issue 6, pp 2029–2049 | Cite as

Gray-matter macrostructure in cognitively healthy older persons: associations with age and cognition

  • Debra A. FleischmanEmail author
  • Sue Leurgans
  • Konstantinos Arfanakis
  • Zoe Arvanitakis
  • Lisa L. Barnes
  • Patricia A. Boyle
  • S. Duke Han
  • David A. Bennett
Original Article


A deeper understanding of brain macrostructure and its associations with cognition in persons who are considered cognitively healthy is critical to the early detection of persons at risk of developing dementia. Few studies have examined the associations of all three gray-matter macrostructural brain indices (volume, thickness, surface area) with age and cognition, in the same persons who are over the age of 65 and do not have cognitive impairment. We performed automated morphometric reconstruction of total gray matter, cortical gray matter, subcortical gray matter and 84 individual regions in 186 persons (60 % over the age of 80) without cognitive impairment. Morphometric measures were scaled and expressed as difference per decade of age and an adjusted score was created to identify those regions in which there was greater atrophy per decade of age compared to cortical or subcortical brain averages. The results showed that there is substantial total volume loss and cortical thinning in cognitively healthy older persons. Thinning was more widespread than volume loss, but volume loss, particularly in temporoparietal and hippocampal regions, was more strongly associated with cognition.


Aging Cognition MRI morphometry Volume Thickness Surface area 



This work was supported by National Institute on Aging grants R01AG17917, R01AG40039, R01AG34374 and K23AG40625, and by National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities grant P20MD6886 to Rush University Medical Center, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Rush Translational Science Consortium and the Marsha K Dowd Philanthropic Fund. We are indebted to the altruism of the participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project. We thank Lei Yu, Ph.D. for a critical reading of the statistical methods, Woojeong Bang, M.S. for statistical analyses and Niranjini Rajendran, M.S. for post-processing.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Debra A. Fleischman
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Sue Leurgans
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Konstantinos Arfanakis
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  • Zoe Arvanitakis
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lisa L. Barnes
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Patricia A. Boyle
    • 1
    • 3
  • S. Duke Han
    • 1
    • 3
    • 7
  • David A. Bennett
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Rush Alzheimer’s Disease CenterRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Neurological SciencesRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Behavioral SciencesRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Preventive MedicineRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear MedicineRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA
  6. 6.Department of Biomedical EngineeringIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA
  7. 7.VA Long Beach Healthcare System Long BeachLong BeachUSA

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