Cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism in hypothyroidism: a positron emission tomography study

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Aug;86(8):3864-70. doi: 10.1210/jcem.86.8.7749.


Hypothyroidism is often associated with defective memory, psychomotor slowing, and depression. However, the relationship between thyroid status and cognitive or psychiatric disturbances remains unclear. Using psychometric scales, 10 patients who had undergone total thyroidectomy for thyroid carcinoma were evaluated for depression, anxiety, and psychomotor slowing; they were examined both when euthyroid and hypothyroid after thyroid hormone withdrawal. Positron emission tomography was used, with oxygen-15-labeled water and fluorine-18F-labeled 2-deoxy-2fluoro-D-glucose as the tracers, to correlate the regional cerebral blood flow and cerebral glucose metabolism with the mental state in patients. Two different image analysis techniques (regions of interest and statistical parametric maps) were applied. In hypothyroidism, there was a generalized decrease in regional cerebral blood flow (23.4%, P < 0.001) and in cerebral glucose metabolism (12.1%, P < 0.001) and there were no specific local defects. Patients were also significantly more depressed (P < 0.001), anxious (P < 0.001) and psychomotor slowed (P < 0.005) in hypo than in euthyroid status. These results indicate that the brain activity was globally reduced in severe hypothyroidism of short duration without the regional modifications usually observed in primary depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / pharmacokinetics*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / diagnostic imaging
  • Hypothyroidism / metabolism*
  • Hypothyroidism / physiopathology*
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / pharmacokinetics
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Blood Glucose
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Thyrotropin
  • Glucose
  • Thyroxine