Brain atrophy and cognitive deficits in Cushing's disease

Neurosurg Focus. 2007;23(3):E11. doi: 10.3171/foc.2007.23.3.13.


Cushing's disease is associated with brain atrophy and cognitive deficits. Excess glucocorticoids cause retraction and simplification of dendrites in the hippocampus, and this morphological change probably accounts for the hippocampal volume loss. Mechanisms by which glucocorticoids affect the brain include decreased neurogenesis and synthesis of neurotrophic factors, impaired glucose utilization, and increased actions of excitatory amino acids. In this review, the timing, pathology, and pathophysiology of the brain atrophy in Cushing's disease are discussed. The correlation of atrophy with cognitive deficits and its reversibility is also reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Glucocorticoids / physiology
  • Humans
  • Pituitary ACTH Hypersecretion / pathology*
  • Pituitary ACTH Hypersecretion / physiopathology
  • Pituitary ACTH Hypersecretion / psychology*


  • Glucocorticoids