Investigating structural brain changes of dehydration using voxel-based morphometry

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e44195. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044195. Epub 2012 Aug 29.


Dehydration can affect the volume of brain structures, which might imply a confound in volumetric and morphometric studies of normal or diseased brain. Six young, healthy volunteers were repeatedly investigated using three-dimensional T(1)-weighted magnetic resonance imaging during states of normal hydration, hyperhydration, and dehydration to assess volume changes in gray matter (GM), white matter (WM), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The datasets were analyzed using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), a widely used voxel-wise statistical analysis tool, FreeSurfer, a fully automated volumetric segmentation measure, and SIENAr a longitudinal brain-change detection algorithm. A significant decrease of GM and WM volume associated with dehydration was found in various brain regions, most prominently, in temporal and sub-gyral parietal areas, in the left inferior orbito-frontal region, and in the extra-nuclear region. Moreover, we found consistent increases in CSF, that is, an expansion of the ventricular system affecting both lateral ventricles, the third, and the fourth ventricle. Similar degrees of shrinkage in WM volume and increase of the ventricular system have been reported in studies of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease during disease progression. Based on these findings, a potential confound in GM and WM or ventricular volume studies due to the subjects' hydration state cannot be excluded and should be appropriately addressed in morphometric studies of the brain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebral Ventricles / pathology
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Dehydration / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Dehydration / pathology*
  • Dehydration / urine
  • Drinking
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Urination

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.