Association of copper levels in the hair with gray matter volume, mean diffusivity, and cognitive functions

  • Hikaru TakeuchiEmail author
  • Yasuyuki Taki
  • Rui Nouchi
  • Ryoichi Yokoyama
  • Yuka Kotozaki
  • Seishu Nakagawa
  • Atsushi Sekiguchi
  • Kunio Iizuka
  • Yuki Yamamoto
  • Sugiko Hanawa
  • Tsuyoshi Araki
  • Carlos Makoto Miyauchi
  • Kohei Sakaki
  • Takayuki Nozawa
  • Shigeyuki Ikeda
  • Susumu Yokota
  • Magistro Daniele
  • Yuko Sassa
  • Ryuta Kawashima
Original Article


Although copper plays a critical role in normal brain functions and development, it is known that excess copper causes toxicity. Here we investigated the associations of copper levels in the hair with regional gray matter volume (rGMV), mean diffusivity (MD), and cognitive differences in a study cohort of 924 healthy young adults. Our findings showed that high copper levels were associated mostly with low cognitive abilities (low scores on the intelligence test consisting of complex speed tasks, involving reasoning task, a complex arithmetic task, and a reading comprehension task) as well as lower reverse Stroop interference, high rGMV over widespread areas of the brain [mainly including the bilateral lateral and medial parietal cortices, medial temporal structures (amygdala, hippocampus, and parahippocampal gyrus), middle cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, insula, perisylvian areas, inferior temporal lobe, temporal pole, occipital lobes, and supplementary motor area], as well as high MD of the right substantia nigra and bilateral hippocampus, which are indicative of low density in brain tissues. These results suggest that copper levels are associated with mostly aberrant cognitive functions, greater rGMV in extensive areas, greater MD (which are indicative of low density in brain tissues) in subcortical structures in the healthy young adults, possibly reflecting copper’s complex roles in neural mechanisms.


Copper Regional gray matter volume Mean diffusivity Cognitive functions 



We respectfully thank Yuki Yamada for operating the MRI scanner, and Haruka Nouchi for being an examiner of psychological tests. We also thank study participants, the other examiners of psychological tests, and all of our colleagues in Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer and in Tohoku University for their support. This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (KAKENHI 23700306) and a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (A) (KAKENHI 25700012) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. The authors would like to thank Enago ( for the English language review. We would like to thank La Belle Vie Inc. and its employees for the hair mineral level analyses as well as Dr. Yasuda and Dr. Sonobe for their technical advice regarding the analyses.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

429_2019_1830_MOESM1_ESM.docx (196 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 196 KB)
429_2019_1830_MOESM2_ESM.tif (113 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (TIF 112 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hikaru Takeuchi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yasuyuki Taki
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Rui Nouchi
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Ryoichi Yokoyama
    • 7
  • Yuka Kotozaki
    • 8
  • Seishu Nakagawa
    • 9
    • 10
  • Atsushi Sekiguchi
    • 2
    • 11
  • Kunio Iizuka
    • 12
  • Yuki Yamamoto
    • 9
  • Sugiko Hanawa
    • 9
  • Tsuyoshi Araki
    • 13
  • Carlos Makoto Miyauchi
    • 14
  • Kohei Sakaki
    • 6
  • Takayuki Nozawa
    • 15
  • Shigeyuki Ikeda
    • 16
  • Susumu Yokota
    • 1
  • Magistro Daniele
    • 17
  • Yuko Sassa
    • 1
  • Ryuta Kawashima
    • 1
    • 6
    • 9
  1. 1.Division of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Development, Aging and CancerTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  2. 2.Division of Medical Neuroimaging Analysis, Department of Community Medical Supports, Tohoku Medical Megabank OrganizationTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  3. 3.Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Institute of Development, Aging and CancerTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  4. 4.Creative Interdisciplinary Research Division, Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary ScienceTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  5. 5.Human and Social Response Research Division, International Research Institute of Disaster ScienceTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  6. 6.Department of Advanced Brain Science, Institute of Development, Aging and CancerTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  7. 7.School of MedicineKobe UniversityKobeJapan
  8. 8.Division of Clinical research, Medical-Industry Translational Research CenterFukushima Medical University School of MedicineFukushimaJapan
  9. 9.Department of Human Brain Science, Institute of Development, Aging and CancerTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  10. 10.Division of PsychiatryTohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical UniversitySendaiJapan
  11. 11.Department of Behavioral MedicineNational Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and PsychiatryTokyoJapan
  12. 12.Department of PsychiatryTohoku University Graduate School of MedicineSendaiJapan
  13. 13.ADVANTAGE Risk Management Co., LtdTokyoJapan
  14. 14.Department of Language Sciences, Graduate School of HumanitiesTokyo Metropolitan UniversityTokyoJapan
  15. 15.Collaborative Research Center for Happiness Co-Creation Society through Intelligent CommunicationsTokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan
  16. 16.Department of Ubiquitous Sensing, Institute of Development, Aging and CancerTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  17. 17.Department of Sport Science, School of Science and TechnologyNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK

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