Background: It is accepted that markedly elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are associated with impaired cognitive function. However, the findings regarding the association between mildly elevated TSH levels and cognition are equivocal. The objective of this study was to assess the relation between TSH levels in the normal to mildly elevated range (0.3-10.0 mIU/L) and several domains of cognitive function.
Methods: A healthy, community-based sample of 489 men and women (40-88 years old, mean = 60.5 years) enrolled in the B-Vitamin Atherosclerosis Intervention Trial were studied. A neuropsychological test battery was used to assess a broad array of cognitive functions. Four uncorrelated neuropsychological factors were extracted by principal component analysis. Using multivariable linear regression, performance on each factor was examined in relation to TSH levels, controlling for age, gender, race-ethnicity, education, homocysteine levels, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and smoking status.
Results: TSH levels were not associated with any of the four factor scores in the total sample or in younger (age < 60) or older (age >or= 60) subjects, although there was a trend for older subjects with higher levels of TSH to do more poorly on paragraph recall (p = 0.06). Gender-stratified analyses showed that TSH was positively associated with scores on word list learning for females only (p = 0.003).
Conclusions: In this community-based sample of middle-aged to older individuals, increasing TSH levels were not associated with significantly reduced cognitive performance in any domain. Further exploration of the effects of gender on the association between TSH and cognition is warranted.