Brain volume change and cognitive trajectories in aging

Evan Fletcher, Brandon Gavett, Danielle Harvey, Sarah Tomaszewski Farias, John Olichney, Laurel Beckett, Charles DeCarli, Dan Mungas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Examine how longitudinal cognitive trajectories relate to brain baseline measures and change in lobar volumes in a racially/ethnically and cognitively diverse sample of older adults.

METHOD: Participants were 460 older adults enrolled in a longitudinal aging study. Cognitive outcomes were measures of episodic memory, semantic memory, executive function, and spatial ability derived from the Spanish and English Neuropsychological Assessment Scales (SENAS). Latent variable multilevel modeling of the four cognitive outcomes as parallel longitudinal processes identified intercepts for each outcome and a second order global change factor explaining covariance among the highly correlated slopes. We examined how baseline brain volumes (lobar gray matter, hippocampus, and white matter hyperintensity) and change in brain volumes (lobar gray matter) were associated with cognitive intercepts and global cognitive change. Lobar volumes were dissociated into global and specific components using latent variable methods.

RESULTS: Cognitive change was most strongly associated with brain gray matter volume change, with strong independent effects of global gray matter change and specific temporal lobe gray matter change. Baseline white matter hyperintensity and hippocampal volumes had significant incremental effects on cognitive decline beyond gray matter change. Baseline lobar gray matter was related to cognitive decline, but did not contribute beyond gray matter change.

CONCLUSION: Cognitive decline was strongly influenced by gray matter volume change and, especially, temporal lobe change. The strong influence of temporal lobe gray matter change on cognitive decline may reflect involvement of temporal lobe structures that are critical for late life cognitive health but also are vulnerable to diseases of aging. (PsycINFO Database Record

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-449
Number of pages14
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


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