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Neuroimage. 2011 Feb 14;54(4):2659-71. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.10.050. Epub 2010 Oct 28.

Thickness of the human cerebral cortex is associated with metrics of cerebrovascular health in a normative sample of community dwelling older adults.

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  • 1Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA 02130, USA.


We examined how wide ranges in levels of risk factors for cerebrovascular disease are associated with thickness of the human cerebral cortex in 115 individuals ages 43-83 with no cerebrovascular or neurologic history. Cerebrovascular risk factors included blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, creatinine, and diabetes-related factors. Variables were submitted into a principal components analysis that confirmed four orthogonal factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, cholesterol/metabolic and glucose). T1-weighted MRI was used to create models of the cortex for calculation of regional cortical thickness. Increasing blood pressure factor scores were associated with numerous regions of reduced thickness. Increasing glucose scores were modestly associated with areas of regionally decreased thickness. Increasing cholesterol scores, in contrast, were associated with thicker cortex across the whole brain. All findings were primarily independent of age. These results provide evidence that normal and moderately abnormal levels of parameters used to assess cerebrovascular health may impact brain structure, even in the absence of cerebrovascular disease. Our data have important implications for the clinical management of vascular health, as well as for what is currently conceptualized as "normal aging" as they suggest that subclinical levels of risk may impact cortical gray matter before a disease process is evident.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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