Serum leptin, thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone levels interact to affect cognitive function among US adults: evidence from a large representative survey

Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Aug;33(8):1730-43. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.05.008. Epub 2011 Jul 16.


Neuroanatomical connections point to possible interactions between areas influencing energy homeostasis and those influencing cognition. We assessed whether serum leptin, thyroxine, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are associated with and interact to influence cognitive performance among US adults. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (1988-1994) were used. Measures included a battery of neuropsychological tests and serum leptin, thyroxine, and TSH levels (20-59-year-old: n = 1114-2665; 60-90-year-old: n = 1365-5519). Among those 20-59-year-old, the middle tertile of leptin (vs. first tertile) was inversely related to the number of errors on the symbol digits substitution test. Increased thyroxine level was associated with a poorer performance on the serial digits test in the 20-59-year-old, but a better performance on the math test in 60-90-year-old group. TSH was associated with poor performance on various tests in the 20-59-year-old, but better performance in the 60-90-year-old group. Significant antagonistic interactions were found in both age groups between thyroxine, TSH, and leptin for a number of tests, including between leptin and thyroxine in the 60-90-year-old group in their association with word recall-correct score. We found significant associations of our main exposures with cognitive function among US adults, going in opposite directions between age groups in the cases of thyroid hormonal levels, as well as some interactive effects between exposures. It is important to conduct prospective cohort studies to provide further insight into potential interventions that would assess interactive effects of various hormonal replacement regimens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cognition
  • Cognition Disorders / blood*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Thyroxine / blood*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Leptin
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine